Speaking what’s right of God: thoughts from Job on pride and humility

The Book of Job presents tremendous difficulties to anyone who really wants to understand it. In the prologue, we learn that Job was perfect in God’s sight, but to teach a lesson to Satan, God stripped Job of his wealth, his health, and his children. Three friends come to comfort him, but get into a nasty argument instead. Through it all, we see human pride at its worst.

All of them say things that sound very religious. Without careful study it is hard to pick out the rightness and wrongness of anyone’s comments. Then God shows up. What he says appears to have nothing to do with anything anyone said earlier.… Read the rest

Joseph: the forgotten man at Christmas

Nativity / Blake

Illustration to Milton’s On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity / William Blake, 1809

I just heard a speaker say she had searched the web for contemporary Christmas songs about Joseph and found only three.

I know of a few more than that from the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Most of them are secular pieces that mock him for being a cuckold. Poor Joseph deserves so much better than that.

We can learn a lot about him by juxtaposing Matthew’s account and Luke’s account of Mary’s pregnancy. When Mary told the angel, “May it be to me as you have said,” the Holy Spirit probably came upon her immediately.… Read the rest

Finding joy in an unexpected place

“Though you have not seen him, you love him, and even though you do not see him now, you believe in  him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy.”–1 Peter 1:8 (NIV)

I confess that I have a naturally gloomy outlook. It’s getting better, thank God, but joy has been an elusive concept for me. Imagine my surprise, then, when I really looked at this verse in 1 Peter, one of the so-called general epistles.

Unlike Paul’s usual practice, Peter did not write either of his epistles to particular congregations. He did not address them to any local issues.… Read the rest

Protected in the shadow of God’s wings

“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy on me, for in you my soul takes refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed.” — Psalm 57:1 (NIV)

David, anointed king of Israel, hid in a cave from the wrath of Saul, anointed but deposed king of Israel. Through Samuel, Saul knew that God had decided to remove him as king. After a while, he recognized David as his eventual replacement. Instead of retiring gracefully, Saul sought to defy God and kill David.

Probably no one in American society is in such danger with, in human terms, so little support and so few resources.… Read the rest

Present protection and future victory

“I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love forever and ever. I will praise you forever for what you have done; in your name I will  hope, for your name is good. I will praise you in the presence of your saints.”–Psalm 52:8-9 (NIV)

David was running for his life from Saul and stopped to see the priest Ahimelech. An Edomite named Doeg saw him there and told Saul, who ordered death for Ahimilech and all the other priests who served with him. No Israelite would obey the order, so Doeg was happy to slaughter them.… Read the rest

Love of money, or contentment?

“Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have because God has said, ‘Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.'” Hebrews 13:5–NIV

We need to trust God with all our heart, mind, and body. That, alas, means to trust him with our money. That’s what the tithe and savings accounts are for. We should all live on 80% of our income. 10% belongs to God, payable to a local church congregation or some other ministry that is doing his work. 10% belongs in savings or investments so that when hard times come (and they will to everyone at one time or another) we have resources to see us through.… Read the rest

Roundabout to Victory–part 5

While it still looked to the Egyptians like they had time to make it safely to shore, God  told Moses to stretch his hand over the sea. The sea flowed back to its rightful place, covering all the chariots, men, and horses.

Remember, it was daybreak. In Romans 13:12, Paul reminds Christians that the night is almost gone and the day is at hand. Two thousand years later, that is still true and will remain so until Jesus returns. The night is a time for sleep. Paul warns us to wake up, be alert, and put on the armor of light even though it is still night.… Read the rest

Roundabout to Victory–part 4

Moses boldly promised that God would fight while the people kept silent, but it appears that he was not as confident in God’s revelation as he wanted to appear. God asked  him why he was crying out.  The verse is ambiguous in  modern translations, but in the King James, God asks Moses “Wherefore criest thou unto me.” That is, “thou” (singular) and not “ye” (plural). God did not ask Moses about the people’s frantic unbelief, but his own. We, too, need to be so sensitive to God’s voice that he can interrupt our prayers if necessary. Prayer is a dialog, not a monolog.… Read the rest

Roundabout to Victory–part 3

After the ten plagues, Pharaoh had not only let the people go, he expelled them. Later it dawned on him: his entire economy depended on slave labor and he had driven all the slaves out. He had to get them back. They had obeyed the Egyptians for as long as anyone remembered. Surely he could make them return. Thus he forgot that it was God’s supernatural power, not the slaves, that had defeated

Likewise, the entire human race, and each individual in it, starts out subject to Satan. He is the god of this world and the world does his bidding.… Read the rest

Roundabout to Victory–part 2

Not only did the Lord lead the people the long way to where they were going, he told them to backtrack. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus%2013:20-14:4&version=NIV He told Moses why: he wanted to provoke Pharaoh and work one more miracle at his expense. He led them to a very vulnerable place.
It looked to Pharaoh like the Israelites were lost and easy to recapture. Where they camped was surrounded by sea and desert. He would sweep in for the kill, right into the trap the Lord set for him.

If we just look at Pharaoh as a man, it seems that God was cruel, toying with him like that, but if we look at him as a thyme of Satan, a different picture emerges.… Read the rest