Saturday, October 1, 2016

Studies in Job: Part I, "The End"

“The End”

Sabbath School Study
October 1, 2016


Every history class I have ever taken starts at the beginning—the beginning of some period of time—never the end.  Wouldn’t it make much more sense, however, if history classes began first with the end in sight?  We could then better see how historical events led to the concluding events of that epoch or even the world itself.  Even the Bible begins with the end in sight:

And I will put enmity
between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
and you will strike his heel.” (Gen. 3:15)

The historical event then makes it clear how that end is being played out now.  But when we are in the middle of a crisis, logical questions arise. We cannot see far.  Our frustrations mount. We often blame one another and eventually even God is blamed. 

We see this happening when God led His people out of the Egyptian slavery.  With the scent of freedom in the air, they meet their first crisis.  They cannot see any solution.  The dust clouds of Pharaoh’s approaching army is seen in the horizon barreling down upon them. The Red Sea blocks them from moving forward or so they think.  Faith in God wanes and they turn on the one whom they can see.  It was Moses who brought them to this point.. They are in the middle of a redemptive event but they cannot see it. They see only what is threatening them.  Fear dominates. Blame permeates the crowd. What they cannot understand becomes the fuel for accusations. Like the Pharaoh they are fleeing from, they in essence cry out, “Who is the Lord . . . I do not know him (Ex. 5:2)  Faith and trust in God is being tested.

Later, much later, a prophet of God by the name of Habakkuk looks around at the political scene and becomes overwhelmed.  He too raises questions.  He doesn’t understand why God doesn’t do something NOW!   Habakkuk says,

How long, Lord, must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!”
but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?

What Habakkuk concludes after raising these important observations has become an reassurance to me.  I find it a helpful backdrop, for my study of Job.  There is a reoccurring pattern in the Bible. After all of the questions, sincere questions, Habakkuk come to a conclusion:

Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
I will be joyful in God my Savior.
The Sovereign Lord is my strength;
Hab. 3:17-19

“Blameless” Job Has Questions

1.     Job also had questions in the midst of his suffering.  Were they legitimate questions?    

Catastrophe not only hit Job but also his family and even some who were associated with him as well.  With sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head (1:7) Job cries out,

“Why did I not perish at birth,
and die as I came from the womb? (3:11)
Or why was I not hidden away in the ground like a stillborn child,
like an infant who never saw the light of day? (3:16)
“If only my anguish could be weighed
and all my misery be placed on the scales!
It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas—
no wonder my words have been impetuous. (6:2,3)

Have you ever wished you had not been born?  Ever feel like life is just too heavy to bear?

Clearly Job did not understand what was happening to him or why?

As paradoxical as it is, “Suffering is not only the way Christ became like us and redeemed us, but it is one of the main ways we become like him and experience his redemption." 

CS Lewis wrote: “God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience, but shouts in our pain: it is His megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”

 Do you agree with Lewis?  Why?  Does it work? Has pain gotten your attention and broadened your understanding of God?

Have you ever been through a trying or difficult situation that you could not understand why it was happening and felt unfairly treated either by people or by God?   Then you have a friend in Job!

2.    What key principle did God raise with Job? (Job 38:1-4)

Then the Lord spoke to Job out of the storm. He said:
“Who is this that obscures my plans
with words without knowledge?
Brace yourself like a man;
I will question you,
and you shall answer me.
“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand. (Job 1:1-4)

Job’s trouble began when a storm (“mighty wind”) struck (1:19) and now God speaks to him “out of a storm.” (38:1).  In the midst of storms we face God often asks us what He asked Job.  Will you doubt Me because you don’t understand what is happening to you and to those around you!  Think again.  You have a limited understanding yet one thing is clear, I do have a plan and it is at work now.  Bear with me. Trust me.  You will understand more later.

3.    What was Job’s confession about God in 42:3?  About himself in 42:4,5?
a.     About God: “You (God) asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand.” (42:3)
b.     About himself: Recognizing that he had complained about things he really did not understand, how did he feel then” (42:6)  “Therefore I despise myself
and repent in dust and ashes.””
c.      What has happened to Job through ordeal he had been through:  He had grown in wisdom and understanding of both God and himself.—2 sides of the same coin.

4.    What is the greatest complaint God had with the three friends of Job? (See 42:7,8)
a.     Speaking to the three friends God said, ““I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” (v.7)
b.     “My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” (v.8)
c.      “Cynicism is the essence of the satanic. The Satan believes nothing to be genuinely good – neither Job in his disinterested piety nor God in his disinterested generosity. Faith in God’s goodness is the heart of love and hope and joy and all other radiant things: cynicism is studied disbelief; and a mind turned in upon its own malice is the final horror of the diabolical.  (Tyndale Com)  [ Definition of cynicism: an inclination to believe that people are motivated purely by self-interest]
                                              i.     Does Satan have a valid point, that people serve God only for what they get from Him? (1:9,10)

d.    Why do you think this truth is so important? What insights does Job 1:7-11 present about why this truth might be so important?
“The Lord said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”
Satan answered the Lord, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”
Then the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”
“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” (Job 1:7-11)

5.    What did Job learn from his ordeal?  Were his questions answered?  What happened that caused this change?
Ironically, as the book ends, Job never fully understood the big picture.  He admits that. (42:3) We have no indication that he ever knew of the conversation that God and Satan had nor how he, himself, fit into the evil scheme of Satan.  But what Job learned through his ordeal was enough. 

While still sitting on the ash heap, his bitterness fades.  He repents of the abusive words he had directed towards God.  No longer is God someone in the “history books”, “My ears had heard of you.”  But now His personal encounter with God changed everything! –“but now I my eyes have seen you.” (v.5)

6.    Was it Job’s “repentance” (v.6) that brought his restoration or was it something else? See verse 10)

What do we learn from this? Which of the following are lessons that come from the book of Job?

a.     Hurry up and repent?
b.     Treat others with kindness, including those who hurt you?
c.      Know God – allow each experience to lead you to a deeper understanding of God while allowing God to be God.?

Illustration of a little girl and her mother trapped at a WalMart by the rain.  “We won’t get wet. That’s what you told Daddy . . .

Job: “I know that my redeemer lives,
and that in the end he will stand on the earth.” (Job 19:25)

Thursday, July 28, 2016

“Jesus on Community Outreach”

“Jesus on Community Outreach”

Sabbath School Class
July 30, 2016

Teacher:  Larry R Evans


As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.
“Who touched me?” Jesus asked.
When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”
But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.” – Luke 8:42-46

·      Was Jesus unaware that someone, in fact many, touched Him?
·      Why was it that “power had gone from Him” when the woman touched Him?
·      How was Jesus aware that someone in that vast crowd would respond to His words?
·      What does this experience tell us about our own ministry or “Community Outreach”  to, for and with others?

As we lay the foundation for this week’s important lesson about the Christian and her or his outreach into the community, there are a few key concepts we need to keep before us..

1.     Outreach doesn’t begin with us!  It begins with God. His work always precedes our own.
2.     God doesn’t ask us to dream-up what we want to do for Him. The effectiveness of Noah, Abraham, Gideon, Saul (Paul) didn’t begin with what they wanted to do for God but rather what God was about to do. They cooperated with His plans.
3.     God wants us to adjust our lives to Him so He can do through us what He wants to do.  He will then accomplish “His” purposes through us. We must first recognize the activity of God around us.  We then join Him in what He is doing.  To do this, two things must be in place:
a.     We must be living in an intimate love relationship with God.
b.     God must take the initiative to open our spiritual eyes so we can see what He is doing.
4.     We must be careful to identify God’s initiative and distinguish it from our own selfish desires.  We must compare what we see to be His initiative with prayer and Scripture to make sure that our perceptions of circumstances align themselves with the direction we sense God is leading us.
5.     A sense of thankfulness permeates our very being when we see God working around us with the dominating impression: “Thank you, Father.  Thank you for letting me be involved where you are.”  (These principles are expressed quite clearly by Blackaby and King in Experiencing God)

Note the following insight by Ellen White in 9T:130,

“Opportunities are opening on every side.  Press into every providential opening.  Eyes need to be anointed with the heavenly eyesalve to see and sense their opportunities.  God calls for wide-awake missionaries.  There are ways that will be presented before us.  We are to see and understand these providential openings.”

With the need to see “what” Jesus sees,  consider now “how” He sees:

“How little do we enter into sympathy with Christ on that which should be the strongest bond of union between us and Him,—compassion for depraved, guilty, suffering souls, dead in trespasses and sins! The inhumanity of man toward man is our greatest sin.
Many think that they are representing the justice of God, while they wholly fail of representing His tenderness and His great love. Often the ones whom they meet with sternness and severity are under the stress of temptation. Satan is wrestling with these souls, and harsh, unsympathetic words discourage them, and cause them to fall a prey to the tempter’s power.... { GW 140.3}
We need more Christlike sympathy; not merely sympathy for those who appear to us to be faultless, but sympathy for poor, suffering, struggling souls, who are often overtaken in fault, sinning and repenting, tempted and discouraged. We are to go to our fellow-men, touched, like our merciful High Priest, with the feeling of their infirmities.The Ministry of Healing, 163, 164. { GW 141.1}
Questions & Reflections

In the early part of Luke 4 we are introduced to the temptations of Jesus.  In the account of the temptations, Matthew and Mark tell us that Jesus was brought into the wilderness by the Spirit, but Luke alone says that he was full of the  Holy Spirit. He also says that it was ‘in (rather than by) the Spirit’ that Jesus was led. Satan indeed tempted Jesus, but there was more to the story than that. The activity of the Spirit shows that it was in God’s plan that right at the outset Jesus should face up to the question of what kind of Messiah he was to be.

In Luke 4:14 we are told that “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.”  We then learn that He went to Nazareth, went to the synagogue and then read from Isaiah 61:2,

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

1.    What was the good news that Jesus proclaimed?
a.    What is the “year of the Lord’s favor”?
b.    Why did he leave off the last part of verse 2 of the Isaiah passage which included, “and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn”?

The good news comes after the Satan tried to persuade Jesus to leave his mission.  Jesus not only did not abandon the plan but He came back with a determination and a renewed focus fueled by “the power of the Spirit.” (Lk 4:14)

Four groups are mentioned as targets for this ministry: the poor, the prisoners, the blind, and the oppressed.  In doing so Jesus defined what kind of Messiah he was to be.  He came to announce, to proclaim “the year of the Lord’s favor.”  This is a reference to Lev. 25 where the Year of Jubilee is described.  Isaiah is painting the picture of the deliverance of Israel from exile in Babylon as a Year of Jubilee when all debts are cancelled, all slaves are freed, and all property is returned to original owners (Leviticus 25).  Jesus is announcing that a new kind of Jubilee, freedom was about to take place because of His ministry.

The part of the Isaiah message that He left off, and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, is a reference to the Second Coming but the focus now is the liberation that comes with this phase of His mission.  This becomes very important for us because we are the extension of this very mission.  We become the hands, the feet, the voice of Jesus.  We too are being sent in the power of the Spirit!

2.    In Luke 10:27 we find these words:  “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.” 
a.    Why does “love the Lord thy God” precede loving our neighbor?
b.    How does Jesus define “neighbor” in the story of the Good Samaritan?  -- As a noun or as a verb? (Lk 10:25-37)

In the story the Samaritan was wounded.  To those who heard the story the Samaritan was an “outsider” and in a sense an enemy.  Jesus defines “neighbor” with “neighboring” – a kind of action and not just by physical descriptions or locations.  In doing so He also defined who we are from heaven’s perspective.  We are all “outsiders” yet we were included in the mission of Jesus which gives us hope.  The very kind we are to share with others.

3.    Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth.” (Matt. 5:13) Why not diamonds or the majestic mountains of the earth?
a.    Why salt?
b.    When does salt not live up to its purpose?

Salt has many uses. It was used as a preservative but salt was also used to bring out the flavor of the food.

The salt dug from the shores of the Dead Sea could gradually become unsalty.  The rabbis referred to salt as a symbol for wisdom.  To lose its saltiness is to become foolish.  If we in our attempt to mingle with the world, which we need to do, and lose our distinctive characteristics we will foolish and fail for to do the purpose for which we have been called.

This is what happened to God’s people in Deuteronomy 12:30.  Despite all that God had done for them they began to inaquire about the god’s of the land where they had gone by asking, “How do these nations serve their gods” and this led to the worship of their gods.  They were curious, captivated and then caught.  The 3 “C’s” of temptation.

4.    When sharing in our community, why is it that we need to have our eyes “anointed”? (See Rev. 3:18)

Jesus uses the story of farming to explain why anointed eyesight is so important. But what is that is driving Jesus own passion for to complete His mission?

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt 9:36)

“Then his disciples said to each other, “Could someone have brought him food?”
“My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”  John 4:33-35

The Greek word for ripe (leukos) is “white”.  Jesus saw a harvest while the disciples were concerned for food.  In is likely Jesus what Amos prophesied in Amos 9:13—a coming age of great fertility.  Looking at those who were responding Jesus saw the white turbans of the Samaritans.  The disciples saw outcasts.  Jesus saw a harvest, the fulfillment of His mission.

5.    Jesus sent His disciples into Israel but he did so with a strange command, “Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts . . . “ (Matt 10:9).  Why?
a.    Why only to the house of Israel?

It was the practice at that time for travelers and solicitors to request funds as part of a business enterprise.  What the disciples were about was not a business for earning but rather an announcement of debts paid! Jesus wanted to make sure there was no confusion.  He was not establishing business.  His mission and that of His disciples was built on sharing the good news which meant at times self-sacrifice – not self-gain.

Once the “lost sheep of Israel” were given an opportunity to see and accept the real mission of Jesus, other nations would be blessed through her! (Gen. 12:3; Isa. 60:3)  Nevertheless, they weren’t to wait but they were to “Go” and share first with the lost of Israel and then into all the world.

Concluding Thought

The gospel is a liberation not a bondage.  Within each person is a prize that God sees and often times we do not.  So valuable is that prize that Jesus came in person and from that coming the image of God can be and is revealed.  We are the ambassadors to reveal to others the value God sees in them regardless of their past, their disability or the shadow cast over them by people and circumstances.

Annie Dillard, 1974 Pulitzer Prize winner for General Nonfiction once wrote:

 “I had been my whole life a bell, and never knew it until that moment I was lifted and struck.”

The mission God has given to us is just that.  Expose the bell in others.  Strike that bell and let them find the joy in singing praises to their God.  It all begins by seeing what Jesus sees.  Why not start there?