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January 30, (Day # 30) – More than Just Fair

In Job 11, we come to the thoughts of Zophar, the Naamathite. Zophar is unkind to Job, referring to him as a “talker and a mocker” (verses 2-3). Zophar has some interesting things to say about God, but his implication is that Job is a sinner (verses 14 and 20). In a very real sense, we could say that Job’s three friends are not helping him at a time when he needs the love, comfort, and support of true friends. Job is suffering in agony, and his so-called friends are literally robbing him of his peace with God. In chapter 12, maintaining his righteousness and blamelessness, Job responds by saying, “I am not inferior to you … I have become a laughingstock to my friends” (verses 3-4). Job realizes that his friends are not offering him anything original (cf., verse 3) or anything of value for his condition. In fact, Job is actually “answering a fool in his folly” (cf., Proverbs 26:4-5). He continues his dialogue in chapter 13, where he repeats that he is “not inferior” to his friends (13:2). Job feels attacked by his friends, and he says, “I desire to speak to the Almighty” about all this (verse 3). He tells his friends, that their “silence would be wisdom” (verse 5), which supports our contention from two days ago: non-verbal presence is often the best sympathy one can offer to a grieving friend. Words don’t mean much, but being there means everything. Job insists that he will be vindicated (verse 10), but in verse 24, his awful condition has driven him to believe that God “considers him an enemy.” However, Job is wrong on this point (cf., Job 1:8). In chapter 14, Job reaches his low point. His rant continues and worsens to the point of lashing out – not just at his friends – but at God. Job knows that God is sovereign, but he states the belief that “man breathes his last and is no more” (verse 10) and that, after death, “he is gone” (verse 20). Based on this false notion, Job tells God to “look away and leave him alone” (verse 6). This is where Job is wrong because he does not possess the assured promise of resurrection truth as revealed in the written Word of God. Just think about how blessed we are to have the Scriptures!

Psalm 17 has a special meaning for me. In 1976, Terri and I were ministering to an underground church behind the iron curtain in communist Budapest, Hungary. For three hours on a Friday night, Hungarian believers were worshiping in secret. Their text that evening was Psalm 17, and they were considering the “wonders” of God’s great love - even under abysmal and heart-wrenching circumstances. They focused on verse 8 - that God has made us to be “the apple of His eye” – and hidden “in the shadow of [His] wings.” We were deeply moved by the depth of their faith and their personal application of God’s care over us. Although we thought we were there to minister to them, actually they were ministering to us by their clearly evident trust, love, gratitude, and testimonies for the Lord under oppressive conditions. Constantly facing dangerous discovery, they demonstrated unshakable, exemplary faith – I have never forgotten that evening or that text. God has stationed us as “the apple of His eye,” and He has hidden us in the shelter and shadow of His wings! How special is that?

In Matthew 20:1-19, we come to the passage where Jesus tells the parable of the workers in the vineyard. In this parable, Jesus wants us to see that our understanding about things is flawed. In this parable, the landowner goes out at various times of the day to hire workers for his vineyard. It’s important to note that the landowner said, “I will pay you whatever is right” (verse 4). Regardless of how long or how short they worked, all the workers received the same amount of pay – a denarius. The wage agreed upon was a wage for the job – not pay by the hour. Although they agreed to the wage, the workers now think they are being treated “unfairly” (verses 11-12). However, in God’s economy, He is the Landowner, and He gets to decide what is right. Here, “the last will be first, and the first will be last” (verse 16). The landowner gets to decide how much he will remunerate his workers, and if they agree to work for that amount, the landowner is being fair. This is a problem with our misguided culture today. No one thinks anything is fair, and everyone thinks he has the right to determine how much the landowner should pay and how much the worker should receive. People forget that without landowners, workers would not have jobs. Fairness is based upon agreement, and here, each worker agreed to work in the vineyard for the amount the landowner agreed to pay – regardless of the number of hours worked – that was not part of the agreement. Jesus said, “I am not being unfair to you … I want to give the man who was hired last the same as I gave you” (verses 13-16). The landowner has the right to decide how he wants to pay his workers, and if they don’t agree with it, they don’t have to serve him. We need to guard against “envy” (verse 15). God is the landowner, and He gets to decide. He has decided to allow us to obtain redemption at no cost to us. That’s more than fair – it’s mercy and grace.

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Your testimony about your Budapest experience touched me. I believe Americans often take for granted our freedom to worship. I wonder if that affects our ability to understand being in the "shadow of His wing". I believe it does.

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