Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament poetic book of Job which not only describes the suffering of Job according to the sovereignty of God, but also the conflict and struggle which took place in the midst of that suffering. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters twenty-nine through thirty-one of this Old Testament book. LONGING FOR DAYS PAST! VISION DURING SUFFERING IS ALWAYS 20/20! SUFFERING CAN DIRECT YOUR EYES IN MANY DIFFERENT DIRECTIONS! SUFFERING CAN CAUSE YOUR EYES TO LOOK BACK IN TIMES PAST! SUFFERING CAN CAUSE YOUR EYES TO LOOK UP FROM WHOM COMES YOUR HELP! SUFFERING CAN CAUSE YOU TO LOOK AHEAD FOR LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL! SUFFERING CAN CAUSE YOU TO LOOK WITHIN AT YOURSELF! WHERE DO YOUR EYES LOOK WHEN YOU’RE IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING? WHERE DOES YOUR HEART GO WHEN YOU’RE IN THE THROES OF SUFFERING? WHERE IS YOUR FOCUS WHEN YOU ARE FOUND IN THE MIDST OF SUFFERING? SUFFERING CAN EITHER KEEP YOU PARALYZED IN THE PRESENT OR IT CAN KEEP YOU BOUND IN THE PAST! IF YOU ARE PARALYZED IN YOUR PRESENT AND BOUND IN YOUR PAST IT IS INCREDIBLY DIFFICULT FOR YOUR EYES, YOUR HEART, YOUR MIND AND YOUR FOCUS TO LOOK FORWARD AND LOOK AHEAD! HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU BEEN BOUND IN THE PAST WHEN YOU’VE BEEN IN THE THROES OF SUFFERING? HOW MANY TIMES HAS SUFFERING PARALYZED YOU IN YOUR PRESENT AND HINDERED YOU FROM MOVING FORWARD AND LOOKING UP? PARALYZED IN THE PRESENT AND BOUND IN THE PAST CAN AND WILL ALWAYS PREVENT YOU FROM MOVING FORWARD AND LIFTING YOUR EYES UP TO THE HILL FROM WHENCE COMETH YOUR HELP! WHERE YOU CHOOSE TO FOCUS WHILE IN THE MIDST OF YOUR SUFFERING CAN AND WILL HAVE A TREMENDOUS IMPACT AND AFFECT ON YOUR LIFE—NOT ONLY IN THE HERE AND NOW, BUT ALSO IN THE DAYS, WEEKS, MONTHS, AND EVEN YEARS TO COME! LOOKING BACK! LOOKING DOWN! LOOKING IN! LOOKING FORWARD! LOOKING UP!
When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find something incredibly interesting and challenging as you read the words of Job. It is absolutely no wonder why the book of Job is placed within the section of Scripture known as “the poetic literature,” for within and throughout this Old Testament book is powerful language of suffering, powerful language of anguish, powerful language of agony, powerful language of hurt and pain. If there is one thing we must recognize and understand concerning poetry, it’s that more often than not it can be the best language of the hurting and of the broken. We dare not miss and lose sight of this absolutely remarkable and astounding reality when reading the portion of the Old Testament, for at the very outset of poetic literature is a narrative of one man’s suffering according to the sovereignty of the living and eternal god. What’s more, is that at the very outset and beginning of the poetic literature found within the Old Testament book of the Bible we find a narrative that begins with an explanation of suffering which many do not spend any time thinking about—much less considering. The Old Testament poetic book of Job begins with a statement and declaration that there was a man in the land of Uz, and this man’s name was Job. Concerning this man Job he was both perfect and upright in the sight of the LORD his God. Moreover, this many Job feared God and shunned evil, and was great in material wealth and possessions. In all reality, I would dare say that this man Job was not only rich toward men, but he was also rich toward God—a truth we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of when considering the narrative that is found in this poetic book. If you wish to truly understand the words which are written and recorded within this Old Testament book it is absolutely necessary that you recognize that in order for Job to be much with men he must first be much with God. These words were coined and penned by the hand of the late Leonard Ravenhill who emphatically and boldly declared that if anyone wishes to be much with men they must first be much with God. Oh how many tragedies and travesties have taken place as individuals have sought to be much with men and yet they have not first sought to be much with God? How many men and women have thought and believe the lie and the deception that they could be much with man without first being much with and much toward the living and eternal God? Perhaps one of the single greatest truths that is found at the opening of the Old Testament book of Job is that Job was much in the sight of men, and Job was much with men because he was first much in the sight of and with the eternal God.
If there is one great concern and one great fear I have within my heart—not only as I read the words of the late brother Ravenhill, but also as I read the words of Job this servant of the LORD—it’s that we cannot, we must not, we dare not seek to be much with men without first seeking to be much with God. Much damage and harm has been committed by those who have sought to be much with men first without recognizing and understanding that there is a great need to first be much with God. Tell me dear brother, tell me dear sister—what good is being much with men if you are not, and if you have not first been much with God? What good is being much toward men if you are not and have not first been much toward the living and eternal God? I fear there are countless men and women who have sought to be much with and much toward men without recognizing the great and powerful need to first be much with and toward God? When and as you read the words which are written and recorded in the Old Testament book of Job we are confronted with the tremendous and incredible reality that before we read of Job being much in the earth, and before we read of his being much with and toward men, we first read of his being much with and toward the living Go. We are first introduced to Job as a man from Uz, but even before we learn anything else about him being rich in this earth and much before and much with men we first learn that he was much with God. If you begin reading the first five verses of the opening chapter of this Old Testament poetic book you will find an incredible narrative that sets the stage for the events which would come after, as there would be two distinct dialogues that would take place between Satan the adversary and accuser, and the eternal God who is seated upon the throne in heaven. I can’t help but be absolutely astounded and captivated with the opening words of the Old Testament book of Job, for the words which we find at the beginning of this chapter bring us face to face with the name of this man, the location of this man, the character of this man, and the possessions of this man. Consider if you will the words which are written and recorded in the opening five verses of this chapter beginning with the first verse:
“There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. And there were born unto him seven sons and three daughters. His substance also was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east. And his sons went and feasted in their houses, every one his day; and sent and called for their three sisters to eat and to drink with them. And it was so, when the days of their feasting were gone about, that Job sent and sanctified them, and rose up early in the morning, and offered burnt offerings according to the number of them all: for Job said, It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts. Thus did Job continually” (Job 1:1-5).
Please don’t miss and lose sight of the words which are written and recorded within this passage of Scripture, for what you will find here is a powerful description of this man called Job from the land of Uz, as this man was not only mighty with and mighty among men, but he was also mighty with the LORD his God. As you read the opening verses of the first chapter you will find that before we read of the great wealth and possession of Job from a physical perspective, we first read of the great wealth of Job before, with and in the sight of God. What we learn and what we discover when reading the words which are found at the very outset of the Old Testament book of Job is that Job was not only a man who was rich toward men and rich in the natural sense, but Job was also rich in the spiritual sense. There are countless men and women who spend their entire lives seeking to be rich in the physical and natural sense, and yet they never seek to be rich with God—either first and foremost, or even at all. Tell me you who are reading these words—do you spend your days and your time seeking to be rich with God? Please note and understand that when I speak of being rich with God and rich toward God, I am not speaking of blessings and prosperity. When I speak of being rich with and rich toward God I am in no way shape or form speaking of that which even remotely touches the physical or natural realm in terms of what we possess in this life. There is a fullness in God, and a fullness with God that has absolutely nothing to do with anything we possess or may possess in this natural life. There is a fullness in God, and a fullness with God that has absolutely nothing to do with any material possessions, or any earthly goods which can be found within this life. In all reality, I would dare say that this was what is so significant and important about the words which the apostle Paul wrote in the opening verses of the epistle which was written unto the Ephesian saints, for if and as you read the words he wrote you will find him speaking—not of being blessed with all material blessings in earthly places, but being blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places. What’s more, is the words of the apostle Paul have at the very heart, the very core and foundation of them the words which Jesus Himself spoke and declared—not only concerning treasure we store up in this life, but also what we seek within this life. Consider if you will the words which are written and recorded by the apostle Paul in this letter to the Ephesians, as well as Jesus’ words concerning laying up treasures for ourselves in this life, and our seeking first the kingdom of heaven:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our LORD Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grade; wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself: that in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: that we should be to the praise of His glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:3-14).
:”Lays not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor trust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. Therefore I say unto you, Take not thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment? Behold the vowels of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your Heavenly Father feeders them. Are ye not much better than they? Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature? And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: and yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? Or, What shall we drink? Or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek) for your Heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:19-34).
“And He spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, AND IS NOT RICH TOWARD GOD. And He said unto His disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what we shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on. The life is more than meat, and the body is more than raiment. Consider the ravens: for they neither sow nor reap; which neither have storehouse nor barn; and God feedeth them: how much more are ye better than the fowls? And which of you with taking through can add to his stature one cubit? If ye then be not able to do that thing which is least, why take ye though for the rest? Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. If then God so clothe the grass, which is to day in the field, and to morrow is cast into the oven; how much more will he clothe you, O yea of little faith? And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things. But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you. Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves gags which wax not old, a treasure in heavens that faileth not, where no thief approracheth, neither moth corrupteth. FOR WHERE YOUR TREASURE IS, THERE WILL YOUR HEART BE ALSO” (Luke 12:16-34).
It’s absolutely imperative that we recognize and understand the words which are written and recorded within these passages of Scripture, for the apostle Paul writes and speaks of being blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, while Jesus not only spoke of being rich toward God, but also concerning where our treasure is there our heart will be also. Please don’t miss and lose sight of the phrase “rich toward God,” for if that phrase does not truly characterize our lives, there is something dramatically and drastically wrong. If we are rich in this life with much goods, and if we are rich with men and rich in the sight of men rather than rich toward God, we have completely and utterly missed the point. There are those that would seek to be rich in this life—rich in the natural sense, rich with men, and rich toward men—and they have absolutely no interest, nor do they have any desire to be rich toward God. Jesus made it very clear that we dare not and ought not seek to be rich in this life and rich toward men and not rich toward God. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are men and women who are rich toward God, or whether we are men and women who are impoverished with and poor toward God. What we learn and discover from the narrative of Job was that while it was indeed true that he as indeed the greatest of all the men of the east, he was first and foremost rich toward and first and foremost much with God. It would be very easy to focus on everything Job had in this life, and everything Job had been blessed and provided with, and yet the truth of the matter is that the more we have in this life—not only the more we have to lose, but also the more we have to give away. Notice in the same passage found within the New Testament gospel of Luke that Jesus also spoke about selling all and giving alms—essentially selling all we have and giving to the poor. There is not a doubt in my mind that the more we have in this life the more we have to lose, and the more we have to offer and give. Tell me dear brother, tell me dear sister (you you have amassed much, and you have much goods and possessions—when was the last time you truly took a step back and thought within and to yourself that the more you have the more you have to lose, and/or the more you have to sell that you might give to the poor? Oh, I can’t help but be reminded of the words which Jesus spoke and delivered to the rich young ruler who came unto him asking what He must do to inherit eternal life. Consider if you will the following words which describe the narrative and interaction between Jesus and this rich young ruler who had amassed great wealth and possessions in this natural life:
“And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour they father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? Jesus saith unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possession. Then said Jesus unto His disciples, Verily I say unto you, That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. When His disciples heard it, they were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible. Then answered Peter and said unto Him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed thee; what shall we have therefore? And Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, That ye which have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit in the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life. But many that are first shall be last; and the last shall be first” (Matthew 19:16-30).
“And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life? And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? None is good, save one, that is, God. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother. And he said, All these things have I kept from my youth up. Now when Jesus heard these things, he said unto him, Ye lackest thou one thing: sell all that thou hast, and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, follow me. And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich. And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. And they that heard it say, Who then can be saved? And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. Then Peter said, Lo, we have left all, and followed thee. And he said unto them, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, who shall not receive manifold more in this present time, and in the world to come life everlasting” (Luke 18:17-30).
In order to truly understand the full weight and significance of these words—particularly and especially as they can pertain to and relate to the narrative of this man from the land of Uz called Job—it is absolutely necessary that we recognize the words which Job declared after he had received three reports concerning all that he had lost in this life, as well as a report concerning the death of his children. If you read verses twenty through twenty-one of this Old Testament book you will find the following words which were spoken and declared by Job after he had lost everything he had according to the divine sovereignty of the living God: “And Joe arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and fell down upon the ground, and worshipped, 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. In all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly” (Job 1:20-22). We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of these absolutely remarkable and astounding words, for after Job had lost everything he rent his clothes, he shaved his head, and he fell down upon the ground and worshipped. What’s more, however, is that Job didn’t simply fall down upon the ground and worship, but Job also emphatically and boldly proclaimed that he came out of his mother’s womb naked, and naked would he return to the earth. Moreover, Job would go on to declare that the LORD gave, and the LORD had taken away, but blessed be the name of the LORD. Please don’t miss and lose sight of these words, for it is with this words that you encounter something truly astonishing and remarkable—namely, that the more we have in this life in a physical and natural sense, the more we have to lose and the more we have to give. For the rich young ruler he had much to sell and much to give away, while in the case and narrative of Job we find that he had much to lose. It’s interesting and worth noting that the living God placed all that Job had into the hands of Satan the adversary, and allowed Satan to touch and completely remove everything Job had, and did so for a short period of time. Of course we know the end of the story, and we know that the LORD not only restored unto Job what he had lost, but He also restored unto him more abundantly than what he had previously. (As a side note we must recognize and understand that whether we lose it all, or whether we sell it all and give to the poor, we must not do so with any expectation of having any of it being restored, or receiving any of it back. To lose it all, or to sell all and give to the poor, and yet to do so with the underlying expectation within our heart and soul that we can and should receive two-fold, or ten-fold, or an hundred-fold back is to completely and utterly miss the entire point and premise of the Old Testament book of Job, as well as the words which Jesus our Lord spoke unto the disciples, as well as the rich young ruler who asked what good thing he needed to do that he might inherit eternal life.
THE MORE YOU HAVE, THE MORE YOU HAVE TO LOSE! THE MORE YOU HAVE, THE MORE YOU HAVE TO SELL AND GIVE AWAY! Perhaps one of the greatest realities surrounding the Old Testament book of Job is that despite the fact that we initially read that Job was rich toward God and despite the fact that he was much with God, I would dare say that he had to lose everything in order that he might become even greater than he was with God. It’s one thing to be rich toward God and to be much with God and to lose everything, and it is something else entirely to become more with God, and to become even richer toward God as a direct result of losing everything. Is it possible that there might very well need to be times within our lives when we must lose everything and lose it all—even if we are rich toward God, and even if we are much with God—in order that we might become even more with God, and in order that we might become even richer toward God? Is it not possible that although Job was rich in this life with much material goods and possessions that he might not only become even richer with God, but also truly right with God—even more than he was before. I read the Old Testament poetic book of Job and I can’t help but be absolutely gripped and captivated with and by the fact that Job was indeed a man who was rich toward God, and he was truly rich in this life and much toward God, and yet he lost absolutely everything according to the sovereignty of the eternal God. Job was both rich toward God, and he was much with and in the sight of men, and yet it was the LORD who not only placed all he had into the hands of the adversary to be striped and taken away, but so also was Job’s physical body given into the hands of the enemy and adversary to do what he will. It’s interesting and worth noting that concerning Job’s physical body—it is the only reference we have concerning Satan’s activity in the life of Job. We read in the first chapter that the LORD delivered all that Job had into the hands of the adversary, and then we read of four distinct events which took place—none of which mention Satan by name or activity. When, however, we come to the second chapter and the LORD placing even Job’s physical body into the hands of the adversary, we find that Satan struck Job with sore boils from the top of his head to the soles of his feet. HO incredibly intriguing it is to think about and consider the fact that not only had Job lost everything in the physical and natural sense, but so also had he experienced trauma and trouble concerning his physical and natural body, as he found himself struggling with sore boils all over and upon his physical body.
It’s interesting to continue reading the Old Testament book of Job, for when you come to the twenty-ninth chapter of the book you will find Job speaking forth a parable in the hearing and company of his friends who had come to mourn with him and to comfort him. As you begin reading with and from the opening verse of the twenty-ninth chapter of the book of Job you will find Job speaking of and longing for times past—simpler times which were much more joyful and pleasant. Upon reading the words which are written and recorded in the twenty-ninth chapter of the Old Testament book of Job you will find that in the midst of Job suffering, he would find himself in the place where he longed for days gone by when life made sense, and when life was much simpler and easier. I would dare say that when Job walked through the tremendous and intense suffering he experienced, he had no context nor framework for any of it. There is not a doubt in my mind that when Job faced and experienced the tremendous suffering which was permitted by the sovereignty of the living and eternal God, there was no context within his heart, no context within his mind, no context within his would concerning what he was experiencing and what he was facing. I would dare say that for most—if not all his life, Job knew nothing by the blessing of God, the favor of God, the provision of God, and even the protection of God. All of a sudden, however, it seemed to all be stripped away, and seemed to be removed from and within his life. There would come a certain day when unbeknownst to Job he would find himself having to deal with something he had no context or framework for—much less something which he anticipated and expected. I am sure that day began much like any other day, and Job thought there would be nothing out of the ordinary that would and could take place, and yet one this particular day he would come face to face with losing absolutely everything in this life, and would come face to face with the death of his ten children. I am sure Job woke up on this day fully expecting life to carry on as it always had, and yet on this particular day he would be found in a place he had never been before, and a place he had absolutely no context or framework for. Job would wake up on this particular day, and would not only lose everything he had in the physical and natural sense, but would also experience the death of his ten children. In a single day Job would lose great wealth and possessions, and would experience the death of his children, and Job would reckon and consider this as the LORD giving and the LORD taking away. Oh how truly telling it is to think about and consider the fact that here we find Job being the greatest of all the men in the east, and being much with and in the sight of men, and yet in a single day he would lose absolutely everything.
When and as you come to the twenty-ninth chapter of this Old Testament book you will find Job in the midst and in the thick of this suffering and loss longing for times past—times when life made sense, times when life was simpler, times when life was comfortable and perhaps much more manageable. In all reality, what we find within this particular chapter is Job looking back over times past and longing for those days when life was “normal,” and when life made sense in his natural mind. The words which are found and located in this passage of Scripture are actually quite remarkable and astounding, for there is not a doubt in my mind that these words have been the cry of countless men and women during these days, weeks, and months in which we have been living. How many times have you heard men and women desperately yearning for and crying out for things to go back to the way they were, and for life to go back to normal—to the way they were used to, and to the way they were comfortable in dealing with? How many times have you heard men and women during this time looking and longing for means to go back top the way things used to be, and the way things used to be? How many times have men and women thrown around the word “normal” as a definition of the way life was before all the chaos, before all the confusion, before all the crisis, before all the questions, before all the fear and anxiety seemed to lay hold and grip the hearts of the nations of the earth? In all reality, I would dare say that what we find written within the book of Job is a truly remarkable and astonishing picture of what we have experienced and what we are experiencing during these days in which we are living, as men and women have—like Job—desperately longed for times past when life seemed to make sense, and when life was perhaps easier to manage and handle. What’s more, is that what we are facing right now during these days is something many nations and wold leaders had no framework or context for, as they have been forced to deal with something they had never experienced or faced before. What’s more, is that the nations of the earth were forced to deal with and handle something they had neither planned, nor prepared for, and it caught many nations completely and utterly off guard as they were all of a sudden thrust into something that was completely and utterly out of the ordinary. Oh that we would recognize and understand this truly astonishing and captivating reality, for more often than not it is during times of tremendous suffering, more often than not during intense times of hurt and pain, during intense times of loss, and during times of great sorrow and anguish we find ourselves looking back to times past and looking for things as they were. We look back over our lives before the suffering, and before the anguish and agony, and we find ourselves wanting to go back to the way things were. We find ourselves looking back to the way things were before all hell seemed to break loose within and upon our lives, and we tend to view that as “normal.” Consider if you will the words which are found within the twenty-ninth chapter of the Old Testament book of Job and the words which Job spoke in the company and hearing of his friends:
“Moreover Job continued his parable, and said, Oh that I were as in months past, as in the days when God preserved me; when his candle shined upon my head, and when by his light I walked through darkness; as I was in the days of my youth, when the secret of God was upon my tabernacle; when the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were about me; when I washed my steps with butter, and the rock poured me out rivers of oil; when I went out to the gate through the city, when I prepared my seat in the street! The young men saw me, and hid themselves: and the aged arose, and stood up. The princes refrained talking, and laid their heir hand on their mouth. The nobles held their peace, and their tongue cleaved to the roof of their mouth. When the ear heard me, then it blessed me; and when the eye saw me, it gave witness to me: because I delivered the poor that cried, and the fatherless, and him that had none to help him. The blessing of him that was ready to perish came upon me: and I caused the widow’s heart to sing for joy. I put on righteousness, and it clothed me: my judgment was a robe and a diadem. I was eyes to the blind, and feet was I to the lame. I was a father to the poor: and the cause which I knew not I searched out. And I brake the jaws of the wicked, and I plucked the spoil out of his teeth. Then I said, I shall die in my next, and I shall multiply my days as the sand. My root was spread out by the waters, and the dew lay all night upon my branch. My glory was fresh in me, and my bow was renewed in my hand. Unto me men gave ear, and waited, and kept silence at my counsel. After my words they spake not again; and my speech dropped upon them. And they waited for me as for the rain; and they opened their mouth wide as for the latter rain. If I laughed on them, they believed I not; and the light of my countenance they cast not down. I chose out their way, and sat chief, and dwelt as a king in the arm, as one that comforteth the mourners” (Job 29:1-25).
The more you read the words which are found within the this particular section of the book of Job you will find Job looking in three different directions within his suffering. In the twenty-ninth chapter you will find Job looking back to times past when life was simpler, times when life made sense, and times when life was essentially “normal,” In the thirtieth chapter you will find Job looking at the present—times when those who were younger than him had him in derision, and times when he was not only suffering and in agony, but times when he would be condemned, criticized, accused and judged by his friends. What’s more, is in the thirty-first chapter you will find Job not looking back, not looking at the here and now, but looking inward. If I am being honest with myself, as well as you who might be reading these words, I would dare say that during the times in which we are living in we are absolutely great and absolutely skilled at doing the first two actions. During these times we are absolutely skilled at looking back in times past when life was much simpler, and life seemed to be “normal,” and even looking at the present condition, the present state, and the present reality which we are experiencing. Where we struggle, however, and where we aren’t as skilled in doing is what is found in the thirty-first chapter. If you read the words which are written and recorded within the thirty-first chapter of this Old Testament book you will find Job moving beyond looking into the past, and looking beyond his present situation, but actually looking within himself as he would experience a great level of introspection and self-examination. Can I be honest with you who are reading these words and declare that introspection and self-examination are two of the hardest things to do—particularly and especially when we are in the throes and bowels of suffering? When we are in the midst of suffering we are great at looking back to times past—looking back at the way things used to be, and looking back to when life was perhaps much simpler, much more manageable, and as we would describe as being “normal.” What’s more, is that during times of suffering we are absolutely great and skilled at looking at our present situation and our presenting condition and forming all manner of opinions, thoughts, explanations, feelings, emotions, and the like. In the midst of the suffering, in the midst of the pain, in the midst of the hurt, in the midst of the agony and anguish we are incredibly skilled at looking at what we are going through and seeking to explain it that we might somehow understand it. What is more difficult when you consider suffering, and when you consider affliction within our lives, the underlying question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are willing to take a look within and a look inward in order that we might truly seek to understand ourselves.
I am convinced that when we are in the throes of suffering we always seek to look for ways to understand and explains the reason, the purpose and the nature of our suffering. More often than not when we are in the midst of suffering, when we are in the midst of hurt and pain, when we are in the midst of oppression, when we are in the midst of affliction and sorrow, we seek to explain—or at least try to explain—that which we are going through. What’s more, is that even during the current days in which we are living men and women have sought to understand and explain what is going on—even the reason behind what is going on—and yet very few have been ready, willing and able to take a look inward at themselves, in inward at the soul of the nation that they might come face to face with and confront that which they have perhaps tried to ignore. In all reality, I would dare say that in the midst of these days and times we have been forced to look within ourselves—not only at the souls of our homes as we have been confined and quarantined within them, but also at the soul of our nation as we are witnessing one of the original sins of this nation, and something that is truly sick within and among us. There is not a doubt in my mind that there is a true struggle to confront, come to face and contend with the soul of this nation and the sin(s) which have caused this nation to be found in a place of great suffering, great opposition, great affliction, and the like. What we are witnessing right now is this nation coming face to face with its own soul in order that men and women might deal with issues that have long been ignored and which have long been pushed under the rug and hid in the closet. There is a true battle land war for the soul of this nation right now, and even if there might be something much bigger taking place behind the scenes, there is still an all-out war for the soul and spirit of this nation. This nation has been forced to deal with and confront the ugliness that has been so pervasive in the midst of it, and is being forced to one and for all deal with things that are much easier ignored and simply pushed aside. In the midst of the suffering and affliction that is plaguing this nation during these current times we find ourselves looking back to and on times past—and perhaps even desiring those times—and yet even more than looking to the past there is a great and powerful need for national introspection and national self-examination. What’s more, is that during these days and during these times there is a great and powerful need for us to take a careful and thought-provoking look within and at ourselves in order that we might truly encounter and come face to face with the ugliness which we have for too long ignored. Consider if you will the words which are written and recorded within the thirty-first chapter of the Old Testament book of Job beginning to read with and from the first and opening verse:
“I made a covenant with mine eyes; Why then should I think upon a maid? For what portion of God is there from above? And what inheritance of the Almighty from on high? Is not destruction to the wicked? And a strange punishment to the workers of iniquity? 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. If mine heart have been deceived by a woman, of if I have laid wait at me neighbor’s door; then let my wife grind unto another, and let others bow down upon her. For this is an heinous crime; yea, it is an iniquity to be punished by the judges. For it is a fire that consumeth to destruction, and would root out all mine increase. If I despise the cause of my manservant or of my maidservant, when they contended with m e; what then shall I do when God riseth up? And when he visitethh=, what shall I answer him? Did not he that made me in the womb make him? And did not the one fashion us in the womb? If I have withheld the poor from their desire, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail; or have eaten my morsel myself alone, and the fatherless hath not eaten thereof; (For from my youth he was brought up with me, as with a father, and I have guided Ed her from my mother’s womb;) If I have seen any perish for want of clothing, or any poor without covering; if his loins have not blessed me, and if he were not warmed with the fleece of my sheep; if I have lifted up my hand against the fatherless, when I saw my help in the gate: then let mine arm fall from my shoulder blade, and mine arm be broken from the bone. For destruction from God was a terror to me, and by reason of his highness I could not endure. If I have made gold my hope, or have said to the fine gold, Thou art my confidence ; if I rejoiced because my wealth was great, and because mine hand has gotten much; if I beheld the sun when it shined, or the moon walking in brightness; and my heart hath been secretly enticed, or my mouth hath kissed my hand: this also were an iniquity to be punished by the judge: for I should have denied the God that is above. If I rejoice at the destruction of him that hated me, or lifted up myself when evil found him; neither have.I suffered my mouth to sin by wishing a curse to his soul. If the men of my tabernacle said not, Oh that we had of his flesh! We cannot be satisfied. The stranger did not lodge in the street: but I opened my doors to the traveler. If I covered my transgressions as Adam, by hiding mine iniquity in my bosom: did I fear a great multitude, or did the contempt of families terrify me, that I kept silence, and went not out of the door? Oh that one would hear me! Behold, my desires is, that the Almighty would answer me, and that mine adversary had written a book. Surely I would take it upon my shoulder, and bind it as a crown to me. I would declare unto him the number of my steps; as a prince would I go near unto him. If my land cry against me, or that the furrows likewise therefor complain; If I have a ten the fruits thereof without money, or have caused the owners thereof to lose their life: let thistles grow instead of wheat, and cockle instead of barley. The words of Job are ended” (Job 31:1-40).
The words which are written and recorded in the thirty-first chapter of the Old Testament book of Job are absolutely critical and vital when thinking about and considering suffering, for it is within this passage of Scripture we are brought face to face with what is perhaps one of—if not the greatest needs in the midst of suffering. It is one thing to walk through suffering and to look back to times past—to times before the suffering when life was simpler, and when life seemed to make more sense. It’s one thing to walk through suffering and to look back to times gone by when life was as we would classify and define it as “normal,” and when life was much more comfortable and convenient for us. It is incredibly easy to walk through suffering and affliction within our hearts and lives and to even turn our gaze—not only on times past, but also on the here and the now and presence. It is very easy to look at our present suffering and to try and understand and explain it within our own natural reasoning and minds. More often than not, I would dare say that we are skillful at doing both of these actions when we are in the midst of and in the throes of suffering. More often than not when we are in the midst of tremendous suffering and affliction we allow our gaze to be fixed upon our present struggle and our present trouble—whether to seek to understand and explain it, or even to complain and murmur against it. I am absolutely convinced that two of the greatest actions which can be done—and in all reality are done—in the midst of our suffering is trying to explain it, as well as and/or complaining against and about it. How many times have you found yourself in the midst of suffering, in the midst of affliction, in the midst of hurt and pain, in the midst of something you were neither prepared nor ready for, and in the midst of that suffering you found yourself looking back longing for days gone by, and looking at your present struggle, trial and trouble? How many times have you found yourself in the midst of suffering and have allowed yourself to get so caught up and consumed with looking back and looking at what is taking place within your life or all around you, and as a direct result you have found yourself being unable to look inward, and to look upward? If there is one truth about suffering it’s that in the midst of it we must allow and give ourselves time and space to be able to look inward at our own hearts and souls, as well as upward to the throne of the eternal God who reigns over all. I fear that one of the greatest dangers and tragedies of what we have faced in recent months, as well as what we are facing right now is that we have been unwilling to turn our attention inward that we might truly reflect and examine who we truly are. More often than it is these times that are divinely used by the living and eternal God that we might come face to face with who we truly are. More often than not it is during times when Satan desires to have us that he might sift us as wheat that we must be brought to the end of ourselves and realize our own inadequacies, our own weaknesses, and our own need and poverty before the living God. Oh, I am reminded of the words which the apostle Peter wrote in the fourth and fifth chapters of the first epistle which was written unto the followers of the Way which were scattered abroad:
“Beloved, think not it 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, the 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 murder, 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 them that 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).
“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 the fore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon him; for he care the 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 5:5-11).
As I prepare to bring this writing to a a close I am absolutely and completely convinced that the greatest need we have during this time is not to understand, nor even to explain that which is taking place within our nation, or within the world in which we live. I firmly believe that the greatest need confronting men and women during these days is the ability to be introspective as they turn their gaze inward within and upon their hearts, their souls, and their minds. What we are witnessing during these days right now in the midst of a pandemic and protest is a truly profound sense of this nation being forced to confront one of its original sins, and to address one of the ugliest blemishes within and upon its soul. The protests we are witnessing during these days are more than just protests against racial and social injustice and police brutality, but they are protests against the soul of this nation which has been marred, scarred, wounded, bruised and blemished during this time. The protests we are witnessing right now is a profound cry from the place of suffering and affliction, as well as against the place of suffering and affliction. We would be incredibly naïve to think and consider that the protests we are witnessing and beholding are solely about social injustice, racial inequality, and police brutality. Men and women are protesting against blemishes and sins of this nation—sins which this nation has ignored time and time again. What’s more, is that these protests are a demand that the cries of the suffering be heard, and the voices of the afflicted be heard. What we are presently witnessing is so much bigger than cardboard signs, so much bigger than united and unified marches and protests. What we are witnessing is more than simply a protest against the here and the now, but a protest against sins, stains, scars, wounds, hurt and pain, and bruises which have long been found and bound up within the psyche and makeup of this nation. We dare not think and believe for one minute that what we are witnessing is only about the death of one man in the state of Minnesota, for it is so much bigger than that. The underlying question that we must truly ask ourselves is whether or not we have allowed ourselves to be silently complicit and silently ignorant in the midst of the atrocities and struggles that have been plaguing this nation. The question we must ask ourselves is not only whether or not we have intentionally or unintentionally been part of the problem, but also what we are willing to do to be part of the solution. This nation has been and is being forced to take a good long hard look at its very soul, and we can no longer keep a bandaid upon the very real wounds and bruises that are present among us. No longer can we turn a blind eye—not only to racial and social injustice, but also to those things within our nation which need to change. I am absolutely and utterly convinced that true and lasting change begins one soul at a time, one person at a time, one heart at a time, as men and women are willing to truly look at and examine themselves and give themselves to a change that is so absolutely critical and vital. State, local and federal governments can pass legislation, and can enact policies that help facilitate and further the change we are seeking, however, policies and legislation can only go so far. The buck starts and stops with us, and we must be willing to let the voices of the suffering be heard, unite and join ourselves to those voices, and to truly speak up and rise up to bring about change. Change can never, does never and will never happen in a vacuum, and all it takes is one spark to light a raging inferno of true and lasting change. True and lasting change can and will only come when and as we are willing to look within ourselves, ask ourselves what needs to change within us in order that we might unite ourselves with others as they themselves are working to not only change themselves, but also bring about true and lasting change.