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January 27, (Day #27) – The Handmaiden of Pride

Today we begin to consider and reflect upon the book of Job. Our rationale is guided by the context of Genesis and Job. In all likelihood, Job was a contemporary of Abraham, so it fits into the context of Genesis and before Exodus. In about two weeks, after we have read through the book of Job, we will come back again to the book of Exodus and pick up with the children of Israel in Egypt. Having seen God’s beautiful beginning of creation, marred by the entrance of sin and death – as described and emphasized in the book of Genesis – we want to consider death’s sidekick – human suffering. I want to stress that suffering and the difficulties of life are NOT God’s design or will for us. Suffering and trouble in life are the by-products of bad decision making by free agents. Human beings have been entrusted with the lofty privilege of free choice - which also comes with heavy responsibility. We cannot have this privilege without responsibility; thus, we are not only free agents, but we are moral agents entrusted with a sense of right and wrong. Animals, plants, and machines simply do not possess the higher level of free choice that God has granted to man. Unfortunately, today’s culture - motivated and directed by instant gratification - has lost its eternal perspective. We see evidence for this all around us - people insist that they want to be free, but they reject all responsibility for their actions. It’s interesting to me that some people will foolishly exercise their freedom to “identify” themselves as an animal, but consequences always follow decisions. It is equally interesting that no animal has ever identified itself as a human being. This kind of nonsense behavior results from the current liberalistic and entitlement mentality that now prevails in our world, and its effects are far-reaching. It has become a philosophy (i.e., a system of belief) by which people irrationally make decisions and then try to live their lives devoid of the natural consequences that follow – which is both impossible and absurd. As we begin the book of Job, two things need to be kept in mind: (1) the book of Job teaches us that man does not know the end from the beginning; and (2) Job lived before any written Scriptures existed – he did not have a Bible – like we do. In chapters 1-3, we see the beginning of Job’s troubles, which God allowed, but did not ordain. The book of Job teaches us to trust God through unknown circumstances. Have you ever lived through unknown circumstances?

In Psalm 16, we see immediately in verse 1 how Job may have gotten through his unknown circumstances: “Keep me safe, O God, for in you I take refuge.” To what extent am I - apart from God - able to keep myself completely safe from anything? This Psalm shows us the personal trust that David placed in God - his “Refuge” (verse 1). David writes, “LORD, You alone are my portion” (verse 5). When we trust God like this, we are “secure” because He gives us “boundary lines” that are “pleasant;” His “yoke is easy” (cf., Matthew 11:30). Human beings do not and cannot operate effectively without boundaries. God’s limitations for us provide safety and security, and they are not burdensome. God is so personally and completely involved in our daily lives that, should He ever retreat, we dare not even breathe.

In Matthew 18, we have seen that Jesus has been addressing the need for humility. Now, in verses 10-35, in the parable of the lost sheep, He illustrates His care for those of humble estate. The shepherd who cares about his sheep cares about all of them – including the one that “wanders away” (verse 12). “The Father,” says Jesus, “is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost” (verse 14). In the next section, Jesus gives us the proper procedure to follow “if a brother sins” against us (verse 15). In keeping with humility, we are to “show” the brother his sin “just between the two of” us (verse 15) with a view of winning our brother over. Our purpose here focuses on what is good for the offending brother – not what is good for me. Peter raises the question of “how many times” should we forgive? Once again, Jesus provides a radical answer – “not seven times – but seventy times seven” (verse 22). The implication is that forgiveness should characterize how we always live our lives and treat our brothers and sisters. Notice the illustration in the parable that follows – the Unmerciful Servant. The servant received forgiveness in the form of full cancellation of a debt he could never pay, but then he was unwilling to forgive a trivial debt. Forgiveness means wiping the slate clean, but unforgiveness is “wickedness” (verse 32). Have you ever owed a debt you could never pay? Humility gives birth to forgiveness, but unforgiveness is the handmaiden of pride.

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