IS THIS ALL THERE IS TO LIFE? [Oct.29th]

A great deal of attention today is directed toward youth. Our society recognizes that the future of our communities depends upon our youth, and so the major programs and interests are designed for the young people. However, the energy and vision of youthful minds fade away as the years progress, and the adults that emerge are disillusioned and earnestly seek some kind of personal satisfaction or reward for the efforts of their all their labours. Solomon, Israel’s greatest king, had to deal with all of this in his lifetime, and as he approached the end of his days he writes of his experiences in the book of Ecclesiastes: “Meaningless! Meaningless!” ……..”Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless.” What does man gain from all his labor?” <Eccl.1:2-3 (NIV)>. He continues to write on the meaningless of life.

LIFE IS MEANINGLESS

He says that “there is nothing new under the sun.” <Eccl.1:9 (NIV)>; from generation to generation, he says, nothing changes, and if one lives long enough all things are repeated. Mark Twain expressed similar thoughts about the meaningless of life in view of man’s inevitable death. Shortly before his death, he wrote, “A myriad of men are born; they labour and sweat and struggle; they squabble and scold and fight; they scramble for little mean advantages over each other; age creeps upon them; infirmities follow; those they love are taken from them, and the joy of life is turned to aching grief. Death comes at last, the only unpoisoned gift earth ever had for them; and they vanish from a world where they were of no consequence, a world which will lament them a day and forget them forever.”   (Source unknown)

WISDOM IS MEANINGLESS

“For with much wisdom comes much sorrow; the more knowledge, the more grief.”   <Eccl.1:18 (NIV)>. The wisdom that God gives must be used for His glory; otherwise all our efforts and work become meaningless. Wisdom gained from human experiences is even more meaningless when not given over to God.

PLEASURES ARE MEANINGLESS

“Come now, I will test you with pleasure………But that also proved to be meaningless. I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless” <Eccl.2:1, 10-11 (NIV)> Kelita Haverland (Country Music Artist) (*) writes: “At 18, I was accepted into one of the top theater programs at a Toronto university. I married at 21 after my two-year stint in professional theater. We set out to follow our dream of fame and fortune in the music world. We soon took the Canadian country music scene by storm, gathering numerous awards and nominations. Amongst the success and struggle, not a glimpse of my former spiritual life could be found. I quietly swept my faith in God under the carpet. I didn’t think I needed Him any longer. Feeling stunted, trapped and unloved in the marriage, I began seeking fulfillment outside of it. Drugs, booze and sex played a big part in numbing the insanity of leading a desperately unhappy double life. However, this new lifestyle went against the values I once held dear, and I started to hate myself. I felt lost, empty and unloved. I pleaded with God to show me a way out of this horrid mess.”

TOIL IS MEANINGLESS

We work hard and long hours to earn money to purchase the things we desire. In doing so we have no time for God, consequently our work is in vain and all we acquire in life is meaningless. “So I hated life……….. All of it is meaningless ……So my heart began to despair” <Eccl.2:17, 20 (NIV)>

 TIME AND PLACE FOR EVERYTHING

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” <Eccl.3:11 (NIV)> We must live orderly lives, putting everything in its place. God and the things of God must have first place in our lives, or everything is meaningless.

 OPPRESSION AND FRIENDLESSNESS

“Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed– and they have no comforter; power was on the side of their oppressors– and they have no comforter. And I saw that all labor and all achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.” <Eccl.4:1, 4 (NIV)> Envy leads to fights, fights lead to oppression, and we all become unfriendly to each other.

SUCCESS IS MEANINGLESS

“Better a poor but wise youth than an old but foolish king who no longer knows how to take warning.” <Eccl.4:13 (NIV)> Billy Diamond (Chief of the Cree Indians – Northern Quebec) (*) states: “I became chief of our Cree community when I was 21. Four years later I became the first Grand Chief of the Cree Grand Council. I used this position to help my people develop. We modernized the villages, built housing and schools and encouraged health and economic development. I was very successful in this position. But like all successes, it had it’s drawbacks, especially in my personal life. I became very prideful. Alcohol and drugs took their toll. I lost contact with my family, with my young wife and children. I knew I had to do something. Even with all the success there was a void in my life. There wasn’t a sense of accomplishment, there was an emptiness, there was no peace.” [Despite growing up in an impoverished Cree community in Northern Quebec and being torn away from his family and placed in a residential school, Billy Diamond has gone on to become a successful businessman and political leader.] In all the success we may have in life, if we forget God and leave Him out of our lives, life becomes meaningless, so we are encouraged: “Therefore stand in awe of God.” <Eccl.5:7 (NIV)>

RICHES ARE MEANINGLESS

“Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.” <Eccl.5:10 (NIV)> Tennis star Boris Becker (*) was at the very top of the tennis world ─ yet he was on the brink of suicide. He said, “I had won Wimbledon twice before, once as the youngest player. I was rich. I had all the material possessions I needed. It’s the old song of movie stars and pop stars who commit suicide. They have everything, and yet they are so unhappy. I had no inner peace. I was a puppet on a string.” When riches and material possessions become our only goal in life, life becomes meaningless. Riches, however, can be used to the glory of God, if we understand that it is a gift of God, and we use it for the furtherance of His kingdom. “Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work– this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.” <Eccl.5:19-20 (NIV)>

AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE

“Since no man knows the future, who can tell him what is to come?  …..no one has power over the day of his death. ……..so wickedness will not release those who practice it.” <Eccl. 8:7-8 (NIV)> Roger Neilson (National Hockey League Coach) (*) The Only Way To Go“Suddenly finding out that you have cancer is tough. However, as a Christian, I know that no matter what I go through God is always with me. I know that if I trust in God then I don’t have to worry about the future — it’s in His hands. I’ve known the Lord since I was a young kid, and I’ve always felt that death is not something to be afraid of. Knowing Jesus means that when I die I’m going to heaven. I’ve got a place to go when it’s all over. And that’s the only way to go.”

Mike “Pinball” Clemons (Toronto Argonauts Football Team) (*) Real Hope – “Everyone has trials. No one is exempt from that. The difference is that I have a hope in Jesus Christ. One thing that makes me sad is when I see people with no hope. That really bothers me. But I understand it perfectly, because apart from God, there is no hope. If we don’t put our hope in God, then we are putting it in things that perish and fade away. Belief in God is really the only thing that lasts. Everyone has trials. No one is exempt from that. The difference is that I have a hope in Jesus Christ.”

A COMMON DESTINY FOR ALL

“the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, ……Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the grave, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. ……no man knows when his hour will come….so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.” < Eccl. 9:1,10, 12 (NIV)>

REMEMBER YOUR CREATOR

“However many years a man may live, let him enjoy them all. But let him remember the days of darkness, for they will be many. Everything to come is meaningless. Be happy, young man, while you are young, and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth. Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment.” <Eccl.11:8-9 (NIV)>

 God allows us to use our free will to make decisions in life. We may decide to live life to its fullest enjoying all its pleasures, without any thought of God, but we must remember the dark days and years to come!

“Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, “I find no pleasure in them”– before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars grow dark, and the clouds return after the rain; when the keepers of the house tremble, and the strong men stoop, when the grinders cease because they are few, and those looking through the windows grow dim; when the doors to the street are closed and the sound of grinding fades; when men rise up at the sound of birds, but all their songs grow faint; when men are afraid of heights and of dangers in the streets; when the almond tree blossoms and the grasshopper drags himself  along and desire no longer is stirred. Then man goes to his eternal home and mourners go about the streets. Remember him– before the silver cord is severed, or the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, or the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it. “Meaningless! Meaningless!” says the Teacher. “Everything is meaningless!” < Eccl.12:1-8 (NIV)>

“Remember your Creator” <12:1> Before the ‘sunset of time’ – the difficult days that lack all pleasure and enjoyment: “the clouds return after the rain” <12:2> in our youth one easily rebounds from life’s difficulties – but as one grows older the skies never seem to clear, going from struggle to struggle with little or no relief: “the keepers of the house” – arms and hands  are no longer as active: “the strong men” – legs and thighs are no longer straight and strong: “the grinders” – partial or complete loss of teeth: “Those looking through windows” – partial or complete loss of sight: “the doors to the streets”– partial or complete loss of hearing: “when men rise up….” – loss of sleep, one is aware of every sound in the night <12:3-4>: “afraid of heights” <12:5>: no longer able to scale the heights like eagles – there is fear of being alone: “the grasshopper”– a young grasshopper is able to fly long distances and jump vigorously, as the years advance one slows down and looses vigour: “desire no longer is stirred” – old age brings loss of desire for most activities (mental and physical): “man goes to his eternal home” – death finally comes. IS THIS ALL THERE IS TO LIFE?

THE CONCLUSION

“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.” <Eccl. 12:13-14 (NIV)>

We can live our lives as we please without God, but it is far better to “Fear God” and keep His commands, for this is the whole purpose of life, and the only way that we can be “whole” “for this is the whole [duty] of man.” Whatever our choice, we must understand that we will give an account to God for the way we live our life.  “Follow the ways of your heart and whatever your eyes see, but know that for all these things God will bring you to judgment.” <11:9>

 “For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “‘As surely as I live,’ says the Lord, ‘every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.'” So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God.” <Rom.14:10-12 (NIV)>

God has given us the choice: eternal life or eternal death.

“Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, ……Nor is it beyond the sea, …….No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. See, I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Now choose life” <Deut.30:11-15, 19 (NIV)>

“But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?'” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” ………That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile– the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, for, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”  <Rom.10:6-10, 12-13 (NIV)>

“Righteousness that is by faith” does not require bringing Christ down from heaven or up from the grave. This has already been accomplished and cannot be repeated. “The word is near you” refers to the accessibility of the gospel. Christ “the Word” is readily available to any and all who call on Him for salvation.

THE FOUR CALLS

The Spirit once came to an innocent child With pleading and tender tone;

“Dear little one, let me come into your heart, And make it forever my own.”

“Oh, Spirit,” he cried, “please go away; For childhood is only for fun and play;

Some other day, some other day, When I am older I’ll bid Thee stay.”

 

The Spirit came back to the fair, stalwart youth, With loving and tender plea;

“The harvest is ready, there’s work to be done, Arise, God is calling for thee.”

“Oh, Spirit,” he cried, “leave me I pray, The pleasures of earth hold me in their

sway; Some other day, some other day; Then, Holy Spirit, I’ll bid Thee stay.”

 

The Spirit plead thus with the toil weary man, “Make haste while God’s grace shall last; 

The years are adorning with silver thy brow, Thy days are now slipping by fast.” 

“Oh, Spirit,” he cried, “I should obey, But I am too busy and tired to pray;

Some other day, some other day; When I have time I will bid Thee stay.”

 

The aged man leans on his frail, trembling staff, With quivering, bitter sigh:

“I’ve wasted a life-time in sin,” he cried, “And now I am going to die:

The Spirit, long slighted, has flown away; No hope and no God, now I cannot pray;

No other day, no other day; The Holy Spirit has gone to stay.”

 (Gertrude Manly Jones)

 

Life will always be meaningless for those who rebel against God, and refuse to honour Him and serve Him. Only those who trust Christ as Saviour and own Him as Lord of their life, will experience the true meaning of life.

 

 ((*) Testimonies extracted from the “Power to Change” website [Aug.2001]:  http://www.powertochange.com)

 

PHILIPPIANS – SECTION 4.

Paul’s Appeal to Have the Peace of Christ   <4:1-23>

(a) Peace with the Brethren     <4:1-3>

Peace with each other as family in Christ is fundamental, in consideration of the fact that as citizens of heaven and the eager anticipation of our final redemption, this should be the encouragement that is needed for such peace; “Therefore…that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!” <4:1 (NIV)>. Having our minds set on heavenly things will cause us to stand firm in our faith and not fight and argue over the minor details that Satan will surely bring to the forefront in our daily lives and within the Church <cf 1:27-30; 1 Cor.15:58>. So he appeals to “Euodia and …. Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.” <4:2 (NIV)>, while encouraging those that are closer to the situation, Clement and the rest, to help in settling the conflict <cf 2:2>. The importance of such peace is emphasized by Paul’s statement “whose names are in the book of life.” <4:3 (NIV); cf Rev.3:5; 20:15> God’s heavenly register of all His children; and it is His expectation that all His children live in peace with each other.

(b) Peace with the Lord    <4:4-9>

Paul here gives us the recipe for peace with the Lord, since it is very likely for any of His children to be defeated by circumstance and suffering in life, he encourages us to “rejoice always” <4:4; cf Hab.3:17-18; Jas.1:2; 1 Pet.4:13>, and to exhibit Christ-like consideration to all our brethren <cf 2 Cor.10:1; 1 Tim.3:3; Tit.3:2>, because the Lord is nearby <see Rom.13:11; Jas.5:8-9; Rev.22:7, 12, 20> so we should not be anxious (self-centred, exhibiting counterproductive worry and non legitimate cares and concerns for the spread of the gospel (NIV Study Bible))  for anything <cf 2:28; 2 Cor.11:28; Matt.6:25-31; 1 Pet.5:7>. He encourages them that in every circumstance they should “by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” <4:6 (NIV)>, for in doing so “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” <4:7 (NIV)>, and “such peace is not based on a psychological state of mind but an inner tranquility based on peace with God” (NIV Study Bible) <cf Jn.14:27; Rom.5:1>. Such peace is beyond all human intellectual capacity and acts as a guard or protection to the child of God <cf Eph.3:18-20; 1 Pet 1:5>.

Peace with God can also be shattered by what influences our thought life, and when such thoughts are negative it will soon influence our speech and actions. Not only does Paul encourage us to think on the positive things of the Scriptures, he also encourages us to act on them: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” <4:8-9 (NIV); cf Isa.30:1-18>. Not only will this produce a healthy thought pattern, it will produce moral spiritual excellence keeping us at peace with God.

(c) Peace in All Circumstances   <4:10-19>

Paul now expresses that he rejoices “greatly in the Lord” because they have renewed sending their gifts for him, a renewal that was not necessarily a fault of theirs since his arrival in Rome had been delayed for various reasons, and they had no opportunity to send their gift <4:10>; he affirms that his rejoicing is not because he was in need for he had learned “to be content whatever the circumstances.” <4:11 (NIV); cf 2 Cor.4:18>; stating that he knew what is was to be in need and what it was for him to have an abundance <4:12; cf 2 Cor.11:9; 1 Tim.6:6-8; Psa.106:14-15>; but he appreciated their gifts <4:14,18>.

“I can do everything through him who gives me strength.” <4:13 (NIV)>, everything specifically that is pleasing to God, for it is He that supplies such strength <cf 1 Cor.10:12; 2 Cor.12:9-10; Jn.15:5; Eph.3:16-17; Col.1:11>.

“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” <4:19 (NIV); cf Matt.6:33-34>; God, who is personal to each of His children, knows our needs and will make sure that they are all supplied, maybe not in our time but in His time; such needs are met according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus which are the true quantity of His blessings to each individual believer <cf Eph.1:7b-8, 18; 3:16-21>.

(d) Conclusion     <4:20-23>

In consideration of he truth he has just expressed, his worshipful expression is “To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” <4:20 (NIV); cf Rom.11:36>; and in a closing remark he sends greetings from the saints in Rome and concludes “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.” <4:23 (NIV)>

PHILIPPIANS – SECTION 3.

Paul’s Appeal to Have the Knowledge of Christ    <3:1-21>

 (a) Warning against Confidence in the Flesh         <3:1-9>

Paul here warns of placing our confidence in physical achievements rather than Spiritual knowledge and accomplishments, for reminding them of this is no trouble for him <3:1>. His use of the term “dogs” shows the aggressiveness of their opposition to the gospel and the seriousness and destructiveness of their error <3:2; cf Gal.5:15> (NIV Study Bible) distorting the real meaning of circumcision. He then gives us three characteristics of the true people of God who are the real circumcision – “we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh” <3:3 (NIV)>. He warns of “men who do evil” <3:2 (NIV)> who force the Gentile believers to be circumcised so as to prove their righteousness <cf Gal.5:1-6>, reminding them that as believers in Christ we worship by The Spirit of God, glory in Christ and have no conviction in physical achievements <3:2>.

Paul could boast of major physical accomplishments, “though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.” <3:4-6 (NIV)>, and all these could not produce the righteousness that God requires, since all such are legalistic forms of righteousness. Sad to say that today there are many church-goers who boats of their self-righteousness in similar ways. He explains that his confidence, and so should ours, comes from his knowledge of Christ and things pertaining to the Scriptures; whatever may have determined his physical profit he now considers a loss for the good of the knowledge of Christ which is of exceeding importance for him; and not only knowledge but a proof of righteousness, “that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.” <3:8-9 (NIV); cf Rom.2:21-22; 1 Cor.1:30; Gal.2:16>: faith in Christ being the sole ground for God’s acceptance.

(b) Exhortation to Know Christ      <3:10-16>

The alternative to confidence in physical achievements is knowledge of Christ, and the spiritual gains we can accomplish as we mature spiritually. “I want to know Christ” <3:10 (NIV)>; to “know” (absolutely) (Biblesoft’s New Exhaustive Strong’s Numbers and Concordance with Expanded Greek-Hebrew Dictionary. Copyright © 1994, 2003, 2006, 2010 Biblesoft, Inc. and International Bible Translators, Inc.). Paul wants to know Christ totally or completely, and like Paul, you and I need to know what the Word of God teaches about Christ; His disciples got to know Him completely by learning form Him and by doing what He asked them to do, and so we too learn from the Scriptures as the Holy Spirit instructs us and are obedient to such instructions <cf Jn.16:13-15>. “the power of his resurrection” <3:10 (NIV)>; the proof of God’s acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice for our sins, the power that will be expressed in us as we are also raised from the dead or changed as we are called to meet Christ in the air when he comes to take us to be with Him, the power that His disciples witnessed after His resurrection as they preached the gospel in the early days of the Church as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, which is still available to us today as we preach the gospel <cf Rom.1:16; 1 Cor.15:14, 17, 51-52; 1 Thess.4:14-17>. “the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings” <3:10 (NIV)>; that is, partnership or participation in His sufferings <cf Rom.6:3-5; 8:17; 1 Pet.4:13-14>, we should remember that Christ told His disciples that they, and we, will suffer with Him as we face persecution in various ways as we partner in His sufferings. “and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” <3:11 (NIV); cf Rom.6:5; 1 Cor.6:14>; this is the promise that we have in Christ that we will attain to the resurrection.

Paul states that he has not yet achieved all this <3:12; cf 1 Cor.9:24-27>, but that he is striving to attain what is ahead; “But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” <3:13-14 (NIV)>, and this should be the intent of all believers in Christ, “All of us who are mature should take such a view of things” <3:15 (NIV); cf 1 Cor.2:6; 3:1-3; Heb.5:14>.

(c) Warning against Living for the Flesh    <3:17-21>

Those that take pleasure in the “the Flesh”, or boast of their accomplishments in what they have, or can do, to accomplish their own righteousness. Paul declares such to be enemies of the cross of Christ because they deny the work of Christ, that has been accepted by God, which is God’s way of imparting His righteousness to those that believe in Him, by accepting what Christ has accomplished <cf Rom.3:21-26; Gal.3:11-13; Heb.9:11-14; 10:1-10>. Paul further states that their destiny is destruction since their mind is on earthly things <3:19>; while for believers in Christ in contrast, “our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.” <3:20-21 (NIV); 1 Cor.15:51-52>. One day we will not only know Him as revealed in our humanity, we will know him completely because we will be like Him in glory <cf 1 Jn.3:2>, and this is the heritage promised to all children of God; the true vision of Christ’s return shatters all such misconceptions.

 

 

PHILIPPIANS – SECTION 2

Paul’s Appeal to Have the Mind of Christ      <2:1-30>

(a) Paul’s Exhortation to Humility   <2:1-4>

In his counsel to the Philippian Christians, Paul suggests that if they have been any encouragement through their unity with Christ, or any consolation from His love imparted to them, or if there has been any tenderness or compassion resulting from the relationship of The Spirit of God in them; he would like them to make his rejoicing fulfilled, “then make my joy complete by being like-minded” <2:2 (NIV)>, not uniformity in thought but an agreement with each other to find some common ground. Since it is impossible for any group of people to be able to come to identical conclusions on any topic or discussion, we need to find that common ground on which we can all proceed, and this is very important in any local church for Satan will surely use any disagreement to cause individuals to “take sides” resulting in divisions within the congregation. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” <2:3-4 (NIV)>. Here again we are reminded that the cause of all discontent is selfish ambition, where one individual determines that everyone else should accept that individual’s position; this is the work of the Devil, and he will continue to do this in the congregation as long as he is allowed to do so <cf Gal.5:20; Jn.15:12-17; Jas.4:1-2>. Paul is indicating that the way to avoid such a conflict is not to push our individual interests but to humbly consider the good of others in all decisions.

(b) Christ’s Example of Humility     <2:5-16>

“Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” <2:5 (NIV)>; and this is the solution to all conflicts. When we consider the humility of Christ; He gave up His “equality with God” by becoming in nature a servant to all mankind; He endured the rejection of mankind, their scorn, He identified in our misery, and finally suffered at the hands of those that rejected Him and murdered Him <Phil.2:6-11; cf Isa.53:1-12>. God’s approval of such humility was to exalt Christ to the highest place. So when conflicts arise let us carefully consider each other’s interests and put our confidence in the leading of The Holy Spirit <cf Matt.20:26-28; Jn.13:1-5, 12-17>.

“Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed — not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence — continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” <2:12-13 (NIV); cf Eph.1:5, 9>: therefore continue to work out your salvation, not to work for your salvation; God has already done all that is necessary for our salvation, it is now our duty and responsibility to continue in our salvation <cf 1 Cor.15:58; Heb.4:11; 12:1; 2 Pet.1:5-10; 3:18; Psa.2:11; Isa.66:2b>.

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life — in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.” <2:14-16 (NIV)>. The ideal of our conduct in regards to our personal character, our conduct towards other believers and our relationship with unbelievers – having the mind-set of Christ as our way of life will discipline our complaining and conflicts, allowing us to shine as lights in our community as Christ encouraged us; for when this is our manner of living, the outsiders will take note and possibly seek the reason for our freedom from strife.

(c) Paul’s Example of Humility        <2:17-18>

“But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.” <2:17 (NIV)>. What did Paul mean by this statement? To gain some understanding, here is a commentary from Barnes’ Notes: “It refers to a drink-offering, where one who was about to offer a sacrifice, or to present a drink-offering to the gods, before he tasted of it himself, poured out a part of it on the altar….. It is used also to denote the fact that, when an animal was about to be slain in sacrifice, wine was poured on it as a solemn act of devoting it to God; compare Num 15:5; 28:7, 14. In like manner, Paul may have regarded himself as a victim prepared for the sacrifice. In the New Testament it is found only in this place, and in 2 Tim 4:6, where it is rendered, “I am ready to be offered;” …. It does not here mean that Paul really expected to be a sacrifice, or to make an expiation for sin by his death; but that he might be called to pour out his blood, or to offer up his life as if he were a sacrifice, or an offering to God. We have a similar use of language, when we say that a man sacrifices himself for his friends or his country.” (from Barnes’ Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997-2014 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.) <cf Rom.12:1>. Paul rejoices in the fact that he regarded his prison experience as a sacrifice for them and they should rejoice with him, “So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.” <2:18 (NIV)>, for such is the example set by Christ Himself.

(d) Timothy’s Example of Humility <2:19-24>

Paul now speaks to the obvious expression of Timothy’s humility, “I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.” <2:20-21 (NIV)>, for he demonstrates a genuine interest in their well-being while in disregard of his own comfort. Timothy had proved himself by serving with Paul in the work of the gospel <2:22>, and expresses that he, Paul, also expects to return to them soon <2:24>.

(e) Epaphroditus’ Example of Humility      <2:25-30>

Paul also expresses his desire to send Epaphroditus back to them referring to his example of humility; “Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.” <2:29-30 (NIV)>; another example of what Paul referred to previously when he expressed his own example of humility. Epaphroditus’ return will also be a reason for rejoicing, “Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety.” <2:28 (NIV)>.

 So we see five examples of exhibiting the “Mind of Christ” in the conduct of a Christian.

PHILIPPIANS – SECTION 1

PAUL’S ACCOUNT OF HIS PRESENT CIRCUMSTANCE <1:1-30>

(a) Paul’s Prayer of Thanksgiving               <1:1-11>

He addresses his letter “To all the saints ….. together with the overseers and deacons” <1:1 (NIV)>. “Saints” – the status of every N.T. believer, well-known for godliness and integrity; consecrated to God <cf 1 Sam.2:9; 2 Chron.6:41; Ex.28:41; 29:1; Lev.21:6; 1 Pet.2:5>. “Overseers” – a shepherd <Acts 20:28>; a bishop or elder; the term elder originated from ancient times when the older men, because of their experience, were the heads of large families. There is no specific origin of eldership pertaining to the N.T. Church especially to local congregations, but their office was to give direction to the local Church <cf Acts 15:22-29>. The elders of the N.T. Church are referred to as pastors <Eph.4:11>; bishops or overseers <Acts 20:28>; leaders and rulers of the congregation <Heb.13:7; 1 Thess.5:12>. “Deacons”one that executes the commands of another, a servant [Unger’s Bible Dictionary]; in the N.T. they were originally appointed to the duty of ministering to the poor and to oversee the temporal affairs of the local congregation <cf Acts 6:1-4; 1 Tim.3:8-12>.

He continues to speak of his joyful and prayerful thanksgiving for their partnership in supporting his ministry in the gospel “from the first day until now” <1:5; cf. 4:15; cf 1 Thess.2:8>, they had participated from the first day he met them until the present time.

being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” <1:6 (NIV); cf Col.2:6-7; 1 Cor.1:8>. He expresses his confidence that God not only begins the work of salvation, He will complete it! The good work that is evident in their lives <1:11> will be completed <cf 1 Cor.1:8> at the time of Christ’s return for His saints; our salvation is initiated, sustained and completed by God.

“all of you share in God’s grace with me.” <1:7 (NIV)>. Their sharing was not deterred by his imprisonment or persecution for they willingly identified themselves with him by their financial gifts sent by Epaphroditus <cf 2:25>, which achieved a Christ like affection in Paul for them and they were constantly present in his thoughts, forming a spiritual unity between them and himself <1:8>.

Paul expresses three petitions that the Philippian Christians should exhibit:

Paul’s prayer for them is: “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight” <1:9 (NIV)>: a real Christ like love must exhibit maturity <cf 1 Thess.2:12; 4:10; 2 Thess.1:3>: growth in knowledge <cf Col.1:9>, demonstrate practical discernment (insight) and understanding.

“so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ” <1:10 (NIV)>: to approve and practice a moral and ethical behaviour; to exhibit no combination of evil due to moral or spiritual failure; so that a “good account” can be given when we stand before Christ’ judgment seat <cf 2 Cor.5:10; Rom.14:10-12>.

“filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God.” <1:11 (NIV)>: this is expected of all believers <cf Matt.5:20, 48; Heb.12:11; Jas.3:18; Gal.5:22-23>. Such righteousness is produced from union with Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit <cf Jn.15:5; Eph.2:10> for which the ultimate goal is glory and praise to God <cf Eph.1:6, 12, 14>.

(b) Paul’s Afflictions Promote the Gospel     <1:12-18>

To his friends, Paul’s imprisonment seemed like a calamity, but he had a more positive perception on his situation, “what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” <1:12 (NIV)> for this was Christ’s revelation to Paul at his conversion, and God was working out His will in Paul’s life <cf Acts 9:15; Rom.8:28>. Paul’s comment on the perceived tragedy is that it has encouraged most of the Christian believers to speak the Word of God “courageously and fearlessly” <1:14> and this was evident to the entire Palace Guard, and everyone else, that Paul had been imprisoned for his stand on preaching the gospel of Christ <cf Acts 28:16, 30-31>. The advancement of the gospel was also influenced by two other factors: “some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill.” <1:15 (NIV)>; the latter group do so in love for Paul acknowledging that he was in prison for his defence of the gospel, while the former group were preaching out of selfish ambition with wrong motives thinking that they would make his imprisonment harder to tolerate. Paul concludes that in consequence of all this, “The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice” <1:18 (NIV)>. Paul will continue to rejoice in the fact that regardless of the reason, the gospel will continue to be preached for that was his goal in life.

(c) Paul’s Afflictions Exalt the Lord            <1:19-26>

“through your prayers” <1:19 (NIV)>: Paul is depending on the prayers of the saints in Philippi for his continued ability to preach the gospel under the pressure of his imprisonment <cf Matt.18:19; Eph.6:19; Col.4:3>: “and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ” <1:19 (NIV)>; for it is only by the help of the Holy Spirit that Paul, or any other servant of The Lord Jesus, is able to do the work of God, for that is one function of the indwelling Spirit of God <cf Jn.15:26; 16:13-15; Rom.8:9; Gal.4:6>. He is confident that this being the case it will “turn out for my deliverance.” <1:19 (NIV)>, for one way or the other, by life or death, God will set him free <cf Rom.8:28; 1 Pet.1:7-9; 2 Cor.4:17>.

He continues by expressing his expectation that he will not be ashamed <cf Rom.1:16>, but that he will have all the courage he will need to continue his work with the knowledge that at the present time, and for as long as he is alive, “Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” <1:20-21 (NIV)>.

“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” <1:21 (NIV)>: for the believer in Christ, we live by His power and in our death we gain the fulfillment of all His promises to us <cf Jn.14:1-3; Isa.57:1-2; Rom.8:35-39; 2 Cor.5:6; Col.3:4; 1 Thess.4:13-15; Rev.14:13; cf Isa.38:1-20>. For Paul to remain alive will result in rewarding work for him, but it is difficult for him to decide; “I am torn between the two” <1:23 (NIV)>; his desire is to depart this life and to be with Christ which is the better of the two choices, but it is more beneficial for the Philippian believers that he remain alive <1:23-24>. Being convinced of the latter choice he desires that he will continue to live for their progress and joy in their faith “so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.” <1:26 (NIV)>.

(d) Paul’s Exhortation to the Afflicted        <1:27-30>

Regardless of what they were experiencing, persecution or otherwise, Paul’s instruction was, “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” <1:27 (NIV)>, for such conduct would be evidence to both fellow believers as well as curious onlookers who are not believers, as to the worth of their faith <cf Eph.4:1-3; Psa.133:1; Matt12:25; 1Cor.1:10; Jn.17:21>. This would also be evidence to Paul and all others that they were united in the Spirit and in harmony for the gospel of Christ <1:27b>. He also encourages them not to be terrified of those that oppose them for confidence in the power of God would be a sign that God would overthrow their intimidators <1:28; cf Num.14:9; 1 Chron.12:17>. Paul then reminds them, and all other believers in Christ, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” <1:29 (NIV)>, for this was also the word’s of our Lord Jesus to His disciples and their experience <cf Mk.13:9; Lk.21:17; Acts 5:41; Rom.5:3; James 1:2; 1 Peter.4:13; Acts 4:24-31; 14:22; 1 Cor16:13-14; 1 Pet.3:14; 1 Thess.1:6-7; Matt.5:12>, and now the experience of the Philippian believers <1:30>.

 

JOB AND ELIPHAZ – SECOND DEBATE

(2)        THE SECOND SEQUENCE OF DEBATE          <15:1—21:34>

  (a).  Eliphaz’s Second Speech           <15:1-35>

Eliphaz appears to have lost his patience with Job and increases his ruthlessness of reproving him. He ridicules Job’s wisdom as being meaningless ideas, useless words and speeches with no value <15:2-3>; claiming that Job undermines holiness and impedes commitment to God <15:4>, accusing Job of verbalizing sinful expressions “Your sin prompts your mouth; you adopt the tongue of the crafty. Your own mouth condemns you, not mine; your own lips testify against you.” <15:5-6 (NIV); cf. Prov.16:23; Matt.12:37; 15:11, 17-18; Lk.19:22>. He continues to presume that Job is so intelligent that he could sit on God’s council, limiting wisdom to himself alone not understanding that everyone else has the same comprehension <15:7-10>. He continues to reprimand Job for replying in anger to his friends words of consolation; “Are God’s consolations not enough for you, words spoken gently to you? Why has your heart carried you away, and why do your eyes flash, so that you vent your rage against God and pour out such words from your mouth?” <15:11-13 (NIV)>. He then repeats his earlier statement that mankind cannot be innocent or righteous for all are depraved and corrupt <15:14-16; cf. Psa.14:2-3; 36:1-4; Rom.3:10-18>.

He concludes his speech by describing the fate of the wicked <15:20-35>: he suffers torment all the days of his life; he hears terrifying sounds; he despairs darkness; he goes astray; distress and anguish fills and overwhelms him; he no longer enjoys his wealth and will not escape the darkness of death as the “breath of God’s mouth” carries him away. He should not deceive himself, for before his time is up he will be stripped of all his possessions just like a vine is stripped of the unripe grapes, or the olive tree that sheds its blossoms. And all this is “because he shakes his fist at God and vaunts himself against the Almighty” <15:25 (NIV)>. We should never lose sympathy with those we seek to comfort because they do not see things as we perceive them.

(b).  Job’s Response               <16:1—17:16>

“I have heard many things like these; miserable comforters are you all! Will your long-winded speeches never end? What ails you that you keep on arguing?” <16:2-3 (NIV)> In his agony Job finds no comfort in the advice of his friends, they are only lengthy and judgmental speeches. He comments that he could do the same if they were in his place, but that would not alter the fact that he would still be in agony <16:4-6>. This is another warning for us today in our attempt to apply our human wisdom to conditions that we cannot understand or appreciate. It is agonizing to him that God has so severely punished him: “Surely, O God, you have worn me out; you have devastated my entire household. You have bound me — and it has become a witness; my gauntness rises up and testifies against me” <16:7-8 (NIV); cf 1:19-22>; it is so dreadful for him that his extremely thin desolate and bony body (“my gauntness”) is a testimony to what he has suffered, and his perception is that God appears to be like a ferocious lion that is tearing him to pieces as his enemies laugh at him <16:9-14>. “All was well with me, but he shattered me; he seized me by the neck and crushed me. He has made me his target” <16:12 (NIV); cf 2:3; 6:4>, and in spite of all his suffering and weeping his testimony is; “yet my hands have been free of violence and my prayer is pure.” <16:17 (NIV)>. The heart of Job’s difficulties is that he does not see a future life and refers to this at different times in his responses, and here again he addresses the subject: “Only a few years will pass before I go on the journey of no return.” <16:22 (NIV)>, but he does express his faith in God: “O earth, do not cover my blood; may my cry never be laid to rest! Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high. My intercessor is my friend  as my eyes pour out tears to God; on behalf of a man he pleads with God as a man pleads for his friend” <16:18-21 (NIV)>.

As Job continues his response, he pleads with God to acknowledge that he is correct in the fact that he is not guilty of sinning, and there is no other, especially his three friends, who will agree with him; “Give me, O God, the pledge you demand. Who else will put up security for me?” <17:3 (NIV); cf Psa.40:17; Isa.38:14>, since it appears that God has closed their minds to any comprehension of his predicament <17:4-5>. Although it appears that God has made him an object of reproach to all the people, the righteous will hold to their beliefs or what they know to be right and grow stronger in their convictions <17:6-9>; another message to us today <cf Rom. 12:1-2>. He concludes his response by referring to Zophar’s comment <11:17> encouraging them to do better in their analysis of his condition, for since his days on earth are almost over, and his only hope is the grave, darkness, corruption, and the worms, which are now his family members, he inquires of them: “where then is my hope? Who can see any hope for me? Will it go down to the gates of death?  Will we descend together into the dust?” <17:15-16 (NIV); cf 1 Cor.15:18-19, 51-57>.

 

JOB – THE DEBATE CONTINUES

(d)       Bildad’s First Speech            <8:1-22>

Unlike Eliphaz, Bildad gets right to the point of his speech; “How long will you..”<8:2>, accusing Job and his family of sinning against God, since God does not corrupt justice <8:3> his suffering must be the result of the sins of his children <8:4>. If Job was a pure and upright man God would certainly restore to him all that he has lost <8:5-7>. Bildad further states that Job should seek the wisdom of the older generations, since the younger, like Job, “were born only yesterday and know nothing” <8:8-10>. In so doing Job would benefit from their knowledge, and relates this to plants in the garden and what is necessary for their survival <8:11-19>. “our days on earth are but a shadow.” <8:8 (NIV); cf 14:2; 1 Chr.29:15; Psa.102:11; 144:4; Eccl.6:12>, and because Job is guilty of sinning he will have to face the consequences; “Yet because the wicked do not fear God, it will not go well with them, and their days will not lengthen like a shadow.” <Eccl. 8:13 (NIV)>. In proof of this Bildad bluntly declares, “Surely God does not reject a blameless man or strengthen the hands of evildoers.” <8:20 (NIV)>, so it is in Job’s best interest that he should repent of his sins so that God can restore him <8:21-22>.

(e)        Job’s Response          <9:1 – 10:22>

He commences his reply with an important question that should be considered by all people alive on the earth today: “But how can a mortal be righteous before God?” <9:2 (NIV)>. A person cannot challenge God’s words or actions because His wisdom, power and greatness are beyond our understanding <9:5-10>; He cannot be seen or understood, and His actions are beyond our comprehension <9:11-12>. Here Job is longing for an opportunity to defend himself before God, not indicating that he is sinless but to prove his innocence of what appears to be the reason for his suffering; but in all his complaints to God <9:13-19> he does not curse God as Satan had predicted. His response would be “I could only plead with my Judge for mercy.” <9:15 (NIV)>, but he did not believe that God would give him a hearing <9:16>; even though if he were innocent he would be condemned by what he has said or will say, and although he is blameless he now despises his own life, and has difficulty understanding when tragedy comes who is responsible, “If it is not he, then who is it?” <9:24 (NIV)>. Difficulties and suffering brings may questions to the mind of the individual, why has God brought me to this? Does He really care? <cf. Num.11:11-15>. Job understands that his life passes by very quickly <9:25-27>, and even at the end of his days God will not consider him innocent, “Since I am already found guilty” <9:29 (NIV)> why should he then struggle in vain, since even if he washed himself he would still be condemned <cf. Rom.3:10-19, 23>. Since God is not like him Job pleads for an arbitrator to plead his innocence before God since as it stands he is unable to do so <9:32-35; cf. 1 Tim.2:5; Heb.4:15>.

Because of his intense suffering and his unbearable condition he conceives a false picture of God and requests “Do not condemn me, but tell me what charges you have against me.” <10:2 (NIV)>; he thinks that God is oppressing him and does not understand what it is to be a mortal being <cf. Psa.62:8; 1 Sam.1:9-18>. He calls for God to remember that he was created by Him, so why is he now being caused to suffer; “though you know that I am not guilty and that no one can rescue me from your hand? “Your hands shaped me and made me. Will you now turn and destroy me? Remember that you molded me like clay. Will you now turn me to dust again?” <10:7-9 (NIV)>, stating that God had envisioned his suffering and that if he had sinned God would not allow his offense to go unpunished. Guilty or not, he is full of shame and engulfed in his affliction <10:10-17>. He then concludes his reply by restating his previous lament of wishing that he was never born <10:18-19>, and since his days of living are almost over he desires that God would “Turn away from me so I can have a moment’s joy before I go to the place of no return, to the land of gloom and deep shadow, to the land of deepest night, of deep shadow and disorder, where even the light is like darkness.” <10:20-22 (NIV)>, because he perceives that the only end to his suffering is death.

(f).  Zophar’s First Speech                <11:1-20>

Zophar, like Eliphaz and Bildad, accuses Job by claiming that it is Job’s sins that have caused his trouble; all Job’s words of explanation cannot vindicate him and his claims of innocence cannot go unanswered <11:2-3>, so he begins to correct Job. First he falsely accuses Job of mocking God <11:3>, and that Job claims his beliefs are faultless and he is perfect before God; then Zophar wishes that God would speak against Job, but as is observed later in the account God would speak <42:7>. Zophar would like God to reveal to Job the secrets of wisdom “for true wisdom has two sides.” <11:6 (NIV)>, meaning that there is a “hidden” as well as an “obvious” meaning to any proverb (as used in the O.T. (NIV Study Bible)), and Zophar presumes that God’s punishment of Job is less than what he deserves, “Know this: God has even forgotten some of your sin.” <11:6 (NIV); cf Ezra 9:13>. Then he continues to explore Job’s philosophy; “Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?” <11:7 (NIV)>, and states that such are higher, deeper, longer and wider than the human mind can comprehend <11: 8-9; cf Eph.3:18-19; Isa.40:26>, and there is nothing that anyone can do about it, not even by climbing up to the heavens, “what can you do?…..what can you know?” <11:8 (NIV)>. If God were to confine Job to prison and then convene a court hearing no one, not even Job, could oppose Him <11:10; cf Rev.3:7> since God recognizes deceitful persons, and it would take a miracle to change Job who lacks intelligence <“witless”(NIV) 11:12>,  just as it would take a miracle for a wild donkey’s colt to be born tame <11:11-12>. So Zophar’s advice to Job is for him to devote his heart to God, put away sin from his hands and not to allow evil in his life; for this would definitely make his troubles disappear and his life would be brighter than the noonday, he would have a bright hope for the future and would live and rest in safety and no one would cause him to fear <11:13-19; cf 1 Sam.7:3; Jos.24:14; Psa.78:8; 101:4>. He ends his speech in the same tone with which he began: “But the eyes of the wicked will fail, and escape will elude them; their hope will become a dying gasp.” <11:20 (NIV)>, insinuating that Job is guilty of sin.

(g). Job’s Response                <12:1 – 14:22>

“Doubtless you are the people, and wisdom will die with you! But I have a mind as well as you; I am not inferior to you. Who does not know all these things?” <12:2-3 (NIV)>. Job’s response begins with cynicism, saying that his friends are the only smart ones and have all the wisdom needed to solve all problems; he, however, is not inferior to them and knows all that they have been trying to tell him. He confesses that he has become a joke to all his friends even though he is righteous and blameless; the affluent despise those that are in difficulty and those that provoke God seem secure, but if they would be able to speak to the animals they would learn that it was the Lord who is responsible for all his difficulty <12:4-10>: “In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” <12:10 (NIV)>. Wisdom is not only for the young and intelligent, it is also for the aged since long life produces wisdom. Even more important: “To God belong wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are his.” <12:13 (NIV) cf. Isa.45:9>, since God is sovereign what He does mankind cannot change <12:14-25>. Job confesses that he has seen, heard, and understood all that they have been trying to tell him, and reminds them that he is just as smart as they are but his one desire is “… to speak to the Almighty and to argue my case with God.” <13:3 (NIV)>; since they continue to smear him with falsehoods they are worthless physicians <13:4> adding “If only you would be altogether silent! For you, that would be wisdom.” <13:5 (NIV)>.

Surely this would be applicable today to those who would attempt to apply human wisdom to mankind’s suffering and difficulties, especially if the reason for such is not evident <cf Prov.17:28>.

Job continues by requesting that they hear his difference of opinion, and comments: “In order to support your own cause, in contradiction to the evidence which the whole of my life bears to the uprightness of my heart, will ye continue to assert that God could not thus afflict me, unless flagrant iniquity were found in my ways; for it is on this ground alone that ye pretend to vindicate the providence of God. Thus, ye tell lies for God’s sake, and thus ye wickedly contend for your Maker.” [(From Adam Clarke’s Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1996, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)] <13:7>. Would God, if He were to examine them, declare them to be blameless, would they be able to deceive Him as they deceive their companions or colleagues; they should be terrified by God’s majesty for His wrath could fall on them; and again Job requests that they keep silent and listen to him <13:8-13>. He continues to ask them why he should jeopardize himself by putting everything at risk in justifying his cause, placing his life in his hands not mindful of the consequences <13:14>.

“Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face. Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance, for no godless man would dare come before him! Listen carefully to my words; let your ears take in what I say. Now that I have prepared my case, I know I will be vindicated.” <13:15-18 (NIV)>. Here Job expresses his confidence in God in the fact that he can defend himself before God since no ungodly person would dare to stand in God’s presence in an attempt to offer a defense; it will turn out for Job’s good and he knows that he will be vindicated <cf. Rom.5:1-2; 8:1-2, 38-39>. No one can bring any charges to God against him, and he is confident in this otherwise he would silent be and die <13:19; cf. Rom.8:33-35>.

He requests two things from God: “Withdraw your hand far from me, and stop frightening me with your terrors. Then summon me and I will answer, or let me speak, and you reply.” <13:20-22 (NIV)>. He wants to know how many sins he has committed and if God will continue to hide His face and torment him until he wastes away like a rotten garment that is eaten by moths <13:23-28; cf. Matt.6:19-20; Lk.12:33>.

He continues to complain that “Man born of woman is of few days and full of trouble.” <14:1 (NIV) cf. 5:7>, springing up like a flower that soon withers away, so God should not be permanently attracted to such a creature that cannot be made pure, since his days are determined and the limits cannot be exceeded, God should let him alone until his time is over <14:3-6>. He compares himself to a tree;  “At least there is hope for a tree: If it is cut down, it will sprout again, and its new shoots will not fail.” <14:7 (NIV)> the tree will again come to life, but he will not; “But man dies and is laid low; he breathes his last and is no more.” <14:10 (NIV); cf. Psa.37:2; Isa.40:7, 24>, so he would die and will not rise again <14:13; cf. Jn.11:25-26; Rom.8:18; 2 Cor.4:17-18>.

As he ends his response it appears that he begins to rise from the despair of his awful condition; “If a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my hard service I will wait for my renewal to come. You will call and I will answer you; you will long for the creature your hands have made. Surely then you will count my steps but not keep track of my sin. My offenses will be sealed up in a bag; you will cover over my sin.” <14:14-17 (NIV)>; he is once more reminded of the hope that God gives to His children who suffer the effects of illness or other difficulties that this life brings upon us; he looks forward to the time of resurrection and accountability and the fact that God wipes away all our sin <cf. 1 Cor.15:17-20; 1 Thess.4:13-17; Heb.8:12>. So as he continues to endure his suffering, and although he looks forward to a better life, it appears to him that God is unwilling to do anything for him in his present condition <14:18-22>.

 

JOB – THE DEBATE BEGINS

  1. HUMAN SUFFERING vs. HUMAN WISDOM <3:1 – 37:24>

(1)        The First Sequence of Debate          <3:1 – 14:22>

 (a)        Job’s First Speech     <3:1-26>

“… Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth. He said: “May the day of my birth perish..” <3:1-3 (NIV)>. Here in his first speech Job comes as near as he will ever come to cursing God, but does not do so. Throughout his speech he calls for blackness and shadows, even for those who curse days to rouse Leviathan (a sea monster, or possibly a crocodile), asking that God would not care about that day. He regrets that he did not perish at birth and be buried in the ground like a stillborn child, for there the wicked cease from turmoil <3:11-17>, so in his state of suffering death has become desirable; “Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, to those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure…” <3:20-21 (NIV)>; he questions God’s action in originally protecting him and now it seems that God has surrounded him with pain and suffering <3:23>, and so often when we experience the grip of pain and sorrow we too express the words of Job: “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness; I have no rest, but only turmoil.” <3:25-26 (NIV)>.

So often God’s children are struck down with sorrow and pain for various things that life brings our way; sickness, sudden death of a loved one, a job loss that results in grave circumstances; and we like Job struggle to understand why God has called us to go through such devastating periods <cf Psa.10:1>; but there is one thing that we can be certain of “…he does not willingly bring affliction or grief to the children of men.” <Lam.3:33 (NIV)>, and as in Job’s case, God allows us to experience these things in His divine wisdom.

(b)       Eliphaz’s First Speech           <4:1 – 5:27>

Eliphaz, pious prominent and orthodox in his views of God’s greatness but was sadly lacking in compassion (Believer’s Bible Commentary; W. MacDonald). He reminds Job that through his teaching and instructing he has encouraged and strengthened many in their times of trouble, so why now that he is experiencing the same he is discouraged and dismayed, is it because he was only pretending he believed what he taught or that he is not following the principles that he taught? <4:3-5>. His fear of God should be his confidence and his uprightness his hope <4:6>. He further suggests Job should consider that those who are innocent and upright are never destroyed, only those that are evil; “At the breath of God they are destroyed” <4:7-11; cf Prov.22:8; Gal.6:7-8; Hos.8:7; 10:12-13; Matt.7:16-18>. So he reasons that Job who has been able to help others, now is unable to help himself, and in his self righteousness (his piety) he has sinned and is being punished by God. He then tells of a vision that was “secretly brought…during the night” which asks; “‘Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker?” <4:17 (NIV)>, and since God places no trust in His servants (angels), and even less in those that live in “houses of clay” (human beings), mankind has no right to question God’s actions <4:12-5:7>; and proof of this is “…man is born to trouble as surely as sparks fly upward.” <5:7 (NIV)>, because we are all sinful mankind’s troubles are never without cause.

As he begins to summarize his speech he instructs Job to do what he would do; “But if it were I, I would appeal to God; I would lay my cause before him.” <5:8 (NIV)>; because, in so doing, God who “performs wonders that cannot be fathomed” will provide divine deliverance from all the difficulties mankind faces; people will have hope and injustice is silenced <5:8-16>. But even more important; “Blessed is the man whom God corrects; so do not despise the discipline of the Almighty.” <5:17 (NIV); cf Hos.6:1-2; Heb.12:4-8>, continuing to explain what is accomplished by God’s discipline and God’s protection from all calamities which will be Job’s peace and contentment <vs.17-26>. So he ends his speech with the instruction: “We have examined this, and it is true. So hear it and apply it to yourself.” <5:27 (NIV )>.

As we review Eliphaz’s speech, we must be careful that when we attempt to comfort and encourage others in their distress, we should never assume that they are suffering because they have done wrong. God deals with each of His children differently and sometimes the less we say the better.

(c)        Job’s Reply    <6:1 – 7:21>

As Job listens to Eliphaz’s remarks, and as he recalls his first comments to his friends about his anguish and misery, he states: “no wonder my words have been impetuous.” <6:3 (NIV)>; his expressions were emotional and spontaneous, as what he was experiencing was like the terror of God organized against him; all his anguish and misery was heavier than the sand of the seas <6:1-7>. So great was his suffering that he wished for God to permit what he hoped for; “that God would be willing to crush me, to let loose his hand and cut me off!” <6:9 (NIV)>, so as to end his pain and for him to have the assurance in the life to come that he had not “denied the words of the Holy One.” <6:10 (NIV)>. He had no strength or power to help himself, and in his despair he should have the commitment of his friends, but they were unreliable as fluctuating streams, swollen in the wet season and ceasing to flow in the dry season, and could not be depended upon and have proved to be of no help < 6:11-21>. He continues to plead with them to show him where he has been wrong, commenting that their candid expressions are painful and their opinions have proven nothing, accusing them of heartless cruelty, he asks “would I lie to your face?”, pleading with them to reconsider their advice and not to be unjust, for his “integrity is at stake” since he considers himself righteous before God <6:24-30>.

As if expecting no further help or comfort from his friends, Job now turns to God <7:7> and comments on the hardships of life on earth; his labour is hard and like a hired servant he longs for the evening shadows, or waits for his wages; the night hours are misery to him as the hours drag on while his body clothed with “worms and scabs and skin broken and festering”, he awaits the inevitable; “My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and they come to an end without hope. Remember, O God, that my life is but a breath..” <7:6-7 (NIV)>. He dreads the thought that he will never see happiness again as he will evaporate like a cloud never to return from the grave <7:7-10>. So he declares that he will not be silent, he will continue to complain even though God terrifies him with dreams to the extent that he would prefer death rather than to continue living in his deteriorating body <7:11-16>. He prefers that God would leave him alone rather than giving him so much attention, examination and testing; “What is man that you make so much of him, that you give him so much attention, that you examine him every morning and test him every moment? Will you never look away from me, or let me alone even for an instant?” <7:17-19 (NIV); cf Psa.144:3-4; 8:4-8; Gen.1:27-28>. He questions God for giving him such responsibility, then making him a target for chastisement inquiring why God does not pardon his offenses and forgive his sins <7:20-21>, and release him from all his pain and suffering.

(Continued…..)

 

JOB

INTRODUCTION

 A classic example of human suffering that concludes people understand only what God chooses to reveal to them <28:20-28> (from Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps & Charts).

AUTHOR AND DATE

This is impossible to determine. Bible scholars believe that the book was written during the reign of King Solomon while Job lived during the age of the patriarchs (from Unger’s Bible Dictionary). He is regarded as a historical character <cf Ezek.14:14; Jas.5:11> and facts that he lived in the days succeeding the flood are: the length of his life (140 years) which was characteristic of the days before and after Noah; and he is portrayed as a priest for his family which was typical of the patriarchal period; there is a noted lack of reference to the Mosaic Law and prophetic accounts in any of the discussions.

OBJECTIVE OF THE BOOK

The issue of the suffering of people who are righteous addressing the age-old question “If God is sovereign and loving, why does He allow the righteous to experience dreadful, and apparently needless, suffering”.  The answer to Job, and all the righteous, is the absolute sovereignty of God in the lessons learned from suffering.

THEME

God testifies to the fact that Job was a righteous individual <1:1, 8>, and pointed this out to Satan. Satan, however, states that Job only served God because it was profitable for him <1:9-10> and if God would remove His protection that Job would no longer serve God, so God gives Satan permission to test Job <1:9-12; 2:7>. We see from the text that in all of Job’s testing he did not curse God <2:9-10>.

The rest of the text is centered on the dialogue between Job and his three friends who declare that if Job is faithful to God then he will be blessed, or if he is unfaithful then he will be punished. In the final analysis as God speaks to Job, we see the real answer to the question of suffering, as Job’s repentance is due to his recognition of God’s infinite greatness and his own finite understanding. This is due to the limitation of the human understanding of God’s true character and His power over His creation. Job finally understands that while God’s ways are beyond our understanding He can always be trusted.

  1. PROLOGUE        <1:1 – 2:13>

            (1).       Job’s Status    <1:1-5>

“In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil.” <Job 1:1 (NIV)>.

“In the land of Uz”(firmness) : a region at the south of Edom and west of the great Arabian Desert which extends into Chaldea <see Jer.25:20; Lam.4:21> (source; The Book of Life – Historical Digest). “The land where Job lived”…. Two possible locations are Hauran, south of Damascus, and the area between Edom and northern Arabia. The exact location of the land of Uz is unknown, but it was probably east of the Jordan River in the Syrian or Arabian Desert.” (From Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Copyright © 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)

Uz-1-1

Uz  ?  (of  Aram) =Red Square on map

The record states that Job was “blameless and upright”; meaning that he was spiritually and morally honourable, but does not suggest that he was sinless <see 6:24; 7:21> as he searches for an answer to his suffering. This would be an excellent portrayal for all believers in Christ considering the earnest advice or encouragement we have from the scriptures <see Hab.1:13; 1 Pet.1:15-16>. As noted in the introduction to this study, Job lived during the age of the patriarchs, and as such he acted as priest for his household since the Mosaic Law had not been introduced <cf Gen.15:9-10>. So here we see Job doing the duties of a priest as he purifies his sons and daughters: “When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would send and have them purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.” <Job 1:5 (NIV)>: again this “regular custom” of Job should be the same for all parents today as we should regularly intercede for our children before God’s throne of grace.

(Continued…)

 

SATANIC ATTACKS AGAINST CHRISTIANS

Satanic attacks are real to all persons, but specifically to Christians, because Satan is God’s enemy and thus an enemy to all God’s followers. Ever since his fall from grace, Satan has been organizing his forces (demons) to oppose the work of MP900443097Christ in and through His followers, those that are called Christians. This opposition has been a reality from the dawn of creation as was seen in the Garden of Eden when Satan, in the outward appearance of a serpent, caused Adam and Eve to sin against God <Gen.3>. Satanic attacks on God’s followers are seen throughout the Scriptures, mentioned often in the New Testament, and seldom, but apparent, in the Old Testament; and belief in the existence and power of spirits (demons) was virtually universal in the ancient world, and is very evident in today’s society. Although Satan, through his demons, has power to bring catastrophe to humans, we should understand that they are only able to do so when they are permitted by God <see Jud.9:23-24a; Job 1:1-2:10>. How then can we as followers of Jesus Christ survive these satanic attacks?

The Apostle Peter, in his letter to Jewish and Gentile Christians, forewarns us that Satan pursues like a lion on the hunt for prey seeking those that he can overcome: “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” <1 Pet.5:8-9 (NIV)>.

Be self-controlled and alert: we should not be asleep like unbelievers; we should be alert or on the lookout for the danger that lurks around us, we should “keep watch” as Christ encouraged His disciples <see 1 Thess.5:6-8a; Matt.24:42; 25:13> and as Peter remembered his failure <see Matt. 26:36-46>.

Resist him, standing firm in the faith: we are unlikely to succeed in our own personal attempts so it is imperative that we depend upon the help of The Holy Spirit in this purpose. It is useless to say “I trust God and ignore Satan” because we are reminded that our battle is not against flesh and blood but against “the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” <Eph.6:12 (NIV)> so we need to put on the full armor of God. The war between God and Satan began when Satan rebelled <see Isa.14:12-17; Ezek.28:1-19> and it continues until the present day and will continue until Christ returns in triumph to reign on earth, since Christians are Satan’s enemy he will do everything to defeat us.

SATAN’S METHODS OF ATTACK

As followers of Christ and students of the Scriptures we should not be surprised at Satan’s tactics, so we must continue to live by the Scriptures “in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.” <2 Cor.2:11 (NIV)>, or as J.B. Phillips translates it – We don’t want Satan to win any victory here, and well we know his methods!” Some of his methods are:

  • Causing a spirit of laziness to overcome us, wherein we become tired and ambition-less in our studies. This can also be the result of the weather, our diet, or pressure of duties, so we need to set our priorities <cf Jas.4:7-8a>; and here again we must be reminded that it is only through the help and power of The Holy Spirit that we succeed. We cannot allow external pressures to keep us away from God; we need to set limits to physical living as opposed to our spiritual needs.
  • Attempting to wreck our minds through incorrect thoughts, impressions or ideas, bitterness, grudges, life’s disappointments and pride. Satan is engaged in the battle of the mind in an attempt to regain control of our lives <cf 2 Cor.4:4>.
  • Being the source of mental stress, triggering changes in our mental condition introducing thoughts of suicide, our routine changes, and we express this in the way we excessively conduct ourselves in the things that we do. We have to be cautious about our uncontrolled mental thoughts, especially when aimless and unsystematic. We should not be led by our “reasoning” but rather we should live by faith in God. We should always understand that God holds the keys to life and death, yet He permits Satan to act in various ways <see Job 1:12; 2:6>.
  • Discouragement is one of Satan’s major weapons, and comes in various ways throughout our life, and especially as we get older and recognize some of our failures in our service for God or as we experience great difficulty serving God in “Satan’s territory”.

HOW DO WE RESIST THE DEVIL’S ATTACKS?

As believers in God we need to understand that we are in a constant battle with evil, the Devil will do everything he can to cause us to fail in our relationship with Christ. We need to be conscious of the fact that as we face the demands of life the Devil will cause us to have wrong desires, thoughts and motives; we need to seek God’s grace and humbly walk with Him each day <cf Jas.4:1-6>; recognize what we are experiencing as a Satanic attack, we then submit ourselves to God and “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” <Jas.4:7 (NIV)>. Here again we must understand that we cannot fight against the Devil by our own capability, our defense is only through the help of The Holy Spirit and the Word of God.

How do we submit to God? The method given to us is: “Come near”, “wash”, “purify”, “grieve”, “mourn”, “wail”, “change”, “humble yourselves before the Lord” <Jas.4:8-10>; and the Lord will direct our ways and deliver us as we resist the Devil.

How do we resist the Devil? We do so by clothing ourselves in the armor of God so as to stand against the Devil’s schemes <see Eph.6:10-18>. We need to protect ourselves with Christ and not think about gratifying our sinful nature <Rom.13:14>. We should defend ourselves by applying the Word of God <cf Matt.4:1-11>, and diligent prayer to God for His protection and deliverance. We must always remember to confess sin immediately, for sin breaks our communion with God and allows the Devil a foothold in our life <1 Jn.1:9> for the Word of God declares “They overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb” <Rev.12:11a (NIV)>.