Genesis Bible Study

The R-Rated Bible

It’s easy to look at today’s world and see a mess.  I don’t even need to get into all of the nasty stuff that goes on for I’m sure twenty or more things easily pop into your mind.  It’s tragic really.  The Bible says in Romans 8:19-22

“For the creation waits in eager expectation for the children of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”

As we eagerly await Christ to come again and redeem all that has been done wrong, so does creation.  I look outside a see the beautiful flowers, lake, grass, clouds, and trees. They bring me closer to God.  I love nature, and it pains me to think that they are suffering as well as all of the people of this world. All of them are groaning, waiting for atonement, just as we are.  It brings them more to life, doesn’t it?

20170807_110006I read through this part of the Bible and see that humans weren’t that different back then.  There were some messed up things that happened! This is R-rated stuff! You have Abraham lying about Sarah being his sister, Lot telling the men in Sodom to rape his daughters instead of the Angels of the Lord, God destroying a whole city with fire because they were so sinful, and Lot’s daughters getting him drunk and sleeping with him in order to preserve their family line.  I’m sorry, WHAT!?!

Instead of focusing on those parts of the story, I decided to focus on the three women mentioned and pull morals from them.  Sarah, Hagar, and Lot’s wife (her name is never mentioned in the Bible) each give us a strong life lesson to live by.

S – Scripture: Genesis 19-21

  • 19:26 – “But Lot’s wife looked back as she was following behind him, and she turned into a pillar of salt.”
  • 21:1 – “The LORD kept his word and did for Sarah exactly what he had promised. 2 She became pregnant, and she gave birth to a son for Abraham in his old age. This happened at just the time God had said it would.”
  • 21:17-21 – “But God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, ‘Hagar, what’s wrong? Do not be afraid! God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Go to him and comfort him, for I will make a great nation from his descendants.’ Then God opened Hagar’s eyes, and she saw a well full of water. She quickly filled her water container and gave the boy a drink. And God was with the boy as he grew up in the wilderness. He became a skillful archer, and he settled in the wilderness of Paran. His mother arranged for him to marry a woman from the land of Egypt.”

20170807_110321O – Observation:

  • Lot’s wife: Follow God’s instructions; do not dwell on the past; there are consequences to disobedience.
  • Sarah: Trust in God’s promises, never doubting that they are impossible.  God is a big God and can do all things!
  • Hagar: God sees us and hears us in our time of need; he provides what we need to fulfill his promises.
  • God: fulfills his promises; calls for obedience even when it is hard; cares deeply about us and provides all that we need, physically and spiritually.

A – Application:

We don’t know a lot about Lot’s wife, but in this brief story, we learn a great lesson from her.  God warns Lot and his family to flee from Sodom before he destroys it, and to never look back.  He demands that they leave what’s behind them and look forward.  Unfortunately,  Lot’s wife glances back at the destruction and turns to a pillar of salt.

Isn’t that true of what happens when we look back though?  We become frozen, unable to move forward into what God may be calling us to next.  Behind us, even if there were struggles, is what we know and feel comfortable with.  As much as it was possibly destructive to our health or well-being, it’s difficult to let go sometimes.

I can get so wrapped up in dwelling on the past and using those experiences to shape what could be next, instead of allowing God to work in new and amazing ways.  In a way, I limit God by only using my past experiences to shape the possibilities of tomorrow.  But God calls me to look forward and let the lessons of my past push me closer to him. What in the past is keeping you from looking forward?  Why is it so difficult to let go and allow hope for the future?

20170807_105308As for Sarah, we witness God finally fulfilling his promise to bless her with a son.  She was full of doubt a couple chapters prior, laughing at the possibility of her having a child in her old age.  Now she is laughing because it actually happened.  We witness another woman laughing in Proverbs 31:25 –

“She is clothed with strength and dignity,
and she laughs without fear of the future.”

I love those laughs that bring me to tears.  There is something so cathartic about it, isn’t there?  It has a certain freedom to it, and for a moment, everything else drifts out of my mind.  Even when life feels heavy and dark, and I don’t feel like laughing, when my hope is fully in the Lord, I can experience that peace all of the time.  How great is that? Have you felt that before?  What was it like?  What is keeping you from experiencing that laughter?  Just try laughing right now, even if it’s fake, just do it.  Let some joy and peace wash over you no matter what is going on.  It’s okay to hope in the Lord and find something good to laugh about, even in your tough circumstance.  Allow yourself to do that, it’s okay.  God has it all in his hands, you need only to let him work.

Finally, we see Hagar, banished from Abraham’s family and wandering in the wilderness.  Hungry and parched, she gives up and loses all hope that her and her son will survive.  Then the angel of the Lord swoops down (okay, maybe not in that fashion, but it’s fun to think of it that way!) and provides what she needs to physically and spiritually to press on.

20170807_110804I love this image.  It’s such a good reminder that God sees and hears and cares about every detail of our lives.  He knows what we need and provides it when we need it.  Not only does he give her water to physically sustain her and Ishmael, but also hope.  He promises that he son will grow up to have many descendants.  They will make it through this trial.

Lot’s wife teaches us to not dwell on the past, but look forward at what God is doing to build your life into something new and amazing.  Sarah’s story builds our confidence in God’s goodness and faithfulness.  He always keeps his promises even when they seem impossible (or especially when the seem impossible).  Hagar proves that God looks out and listens for us, providing what we need physically, but also the most essential thing: hope.

Between all of the R-rated stories we find in these chapters, we can witness God’s amazing work in the details of these women’s lives.  I hope you can see God’s grace, hope, and love among these women and be encouraged.  Even though life around us is messy, dirty, and tragic, we can still find hope in looking forward to God’s ultimate redemption.  Along with the flowers and trees, God is preparing a beautiful place where Satan has no power for us to reside when Jesus returns.

P – Prayer:

God, thank you for the stories of these women.  Thank you for the lessons that they share.  I think the one that speaks to me most right now is the one of Lot’s wife.  I don’t want to be frozen in the past.  Things happened and I’ve learned a lot, but you have so much more for me in the future.  Help me to focus my eyes on you and hope for what you have to come.  In your name, Amen.

Link to a Bible Study Blog Post #17 - The R-Rated Bible
Finding life and grace through God’s Word.
Bible Verse Image
The Lord kept his word and did exactly what he had promised.
Genesis Bible Study

Oven Roasted Promises

Have you ever eaten french fries the next day? It’s a weird question, I know, but roll with me for a moment.  I LOVE fries! I don’t eat the bun of my burger because I want more room for the fries! However, when I take them home, they are never as good.  Why? Because I want to eat them immediately so I microwave them instead of put them in the oven so they can crisp up again.  I can’t wait that long! But I quickly regret my impulsiveness and tell myself that next time I will put them in the oven even though it takes longer.

Delayed gratification is not natural for me.  Who wants to wait? Especially now that everything is at my fingertips.  With high-speed internet and smartphones, there is no waiting.  I used to get so frustrated at the little buffering icon that would pop up as I tried to load a page with dial-up internet.  How dare it take one of my precious minutes away from my life. Who remembers that?  And now, I get irritated if it takes more that two seconds for something to appear on my phone.  Like my fries, I want the information I am seeking microwaved to me.

20170808_201545Waiting is hard.  God asked Abram to wait a long time, decades, before his promise would be fulfilled! God’s promises, I’ve found, are slow-cooked to perfection in the oven, and not microwaved. Read on!

S – Scripture: Genesis 16-18

  • 16:1-3 – “Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not been able to bear children for him. But she had an Egyptian servant named Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, ‘The LORD has prevented me from having children. Go and sleep with my servant. Perhaps I can have children through her.’ And Abram agreed with Sarai’s proposal. So Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian servant and gave her to Abram as a wife. (This happened ten years after Abram had settled in the land of Canaan.)”
  • 16:9-14 – “The angel of the LORD said to her, ‘Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.’  Then he added, ‘I will give you more descendants than you can count.’ And the angel also said, ‘You are now pregnant and will give birth to a son. You are to name him Ishmael (which means ‘God hears’), for the LORD has heard your cry of distress. This son of yours will be a wild man, as untamed as a wild donkey! He will raise his fist against everyone, and everyone will be against him. Yes, he will live in open hostility against all his relatives.’ Thereafter, Hagar used another name to refer to the LORD, who had spoken to her. She said, ‘You are the God who sees me.’ She also said, ‘Have I truly seen the One who sees me?’ So that well was named Beer-lahai-roi (which means “well of the Living One who sees me”). Abram was eighty-six when Ishmeal was born.”
  • 17:1-3 – “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am El-Shaddai–‘God Almighty.’ Serve me faithfully and live a blameless life. I will make a covenant with you, by which I will guarantee to give you countless descendants.’ At this, Abram fell face down on the ground.”
  • 17:17-19 – “Then Abraham bowed down to the ground, but he laughed to himself in disbelief. ‘How could I become a father at the age of 100?’ he thought. ‘And how can Sarah have a baby when she is ninety years old?’ So Abraham said to God, ‘May Ishmael live under your special blessing?’ But God replied, ‘No–Sarah, your wife, will give birth to a son for you. You will name him Isaac, and I will confirm my covenant with him and his descendants as an everlasting covenant.'”
  • 18:10-14 – “Then one of them said, ‘I will return to you about this time next year, and your wife, Sarah, will have a son!’ Sarah was listening to this conversation from the tent. Abraham and Sarah were both very old by this time, and Sarah was long past the age of having children. So she laughed silently to herself and said, ‘How could a worn-out woman like me enjoy such pleasure, especially when my master–my husband–is also so old?’ Then the LORD said to Abraham, ‘Why did Sarah laugh? Why did she say, ‘Can an old woman like me have a baby?’ Is anything too hard for the LORD? I will return about this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.'”

20170808_142533O – Observation:

  • It had been ten years since Abram and Sarai moved to Canaan and God had made a covenant with him, promising a son and many descendants.  Ishmael was born and then another thirteen years passed before Isaac would have been born.  That’s 23 years of waiting for a promise to be fulfilled!
  • Sarai and Abram take matters of getting a son into their own hands with the wedding of Hagar (Sarai’s servant) to Abram.  This produces a son, Ishmael.
  • Hagar starts treating Sarai with contempt and Sarai returns that with harshness.  Hagar runs away and the Lord finds her at a well.
  • The angel of the Lord promises the Ishmael will have many descendants as well.  She names the well “God sees” and Ishmael “God hears.”
  • Abraham and Sarah laugh when God tells them they will have a son in their old age.  But the covenant is confirmed by a traveler.
  • God is revealed as El-Shaddai (God Almighty), and that he sees and hears us.
  • Sometimes we try to go ahead of God’s plan…it doesn’t work out as well, but God still uses it for good.

20170808_205112A – Application:

In the last blog post I encouraged you to sit with God for a moment and let him reveal some of the promises he has for you.  What did he say?  Silence isn’t a bad thing either, it means we have to trust that he has it under control and we don’t need to worry about it.  Sometimes his promises are specific, or they can be vague.  Today I got some very detailed promises that I’d like to share with you as an encouragement.

1.) Kids – I have confirmed through Stephanie (a dear friend of mine who spoke this to me years ago) that you would have children.  And they will grow up to know me.  Wait a little longer.

2.) Business – We are building the foundations.  I am preparing a place and all of the people.  It will all fall into place.  Trust in me.

3.) Dan’s business – It will be big and life-changing.  Hold on.

I wasn’t originally going to share this.  These are some of the deepest desires of mine and have unfortunately caused some of the deepest hurts and uncovered my darkest fears.  I do want children, the love and the crazy involved in parenting.  I strongly desire to build something that matters in this world and makes a difference for people.  My husband, bless him, I want to see him succeed because he wants to be a change in the world too.  We want to give more and serve more.

But right now, in this moment, I am jobless, childless, sometimes hopeless.  I have none of those things.  But God spoke those promises clearly to me.  I can’t deny them.

20170730_141035In Lara Casey’s book, “Cultivate” she talks about embracing the season you are in.  For awhile, I was in a winter season.  Everything seemed dead or dying, hopeless and dreary.  Then spring came, a season of planting.  I’m in that right now I think.  Yes, I don’t have a job or kids, but I have time.  God has blessed me with a season to rest and figure life out again.  I want to use it wisely.  I want to plant things that are going to grow and in the summer of my life, bloom and thrive.

Do you think Abraham was in a winter season for a time?  God made a covenant with him and had him wait 23 years before allowing it to happen.  Abraham wasn’t perfect in this, Ishmael is the proof of that.  Him and Sarah even laughed at the thought of God working that promise out.  They possibly had given up on it.

I don’t want to lose faith in the promises God has given me.  I don’t want to laugh in God’s face and belittle his power.  It’s difficult some days to imagine that God could do something with my life.  Oftentimes I can’t see how God would use me in this big world.  But he said he would and that gives me hope.

I love God’s response to Sarah’s laugh, “Is anything to hard for the Lord?” When we bought our house it was in January and we moved in in March.  Snow was still on the ground and we had no idea what spring and summer would do to the many beds we saw in the yard. It’s difficult to see what a garden can become when it’s winter, or even spring when it’s still dirt and seeds.  But then spring and summer came and WOW! it’s crazy beautiful all of the things that bloomed.

20170730_141204.jpgWhat season are you in?  Do you think that there isn’t any hope for God’s promises to come true in your life?  Embrace your season and trust that God is working in the dirt, with the seeds, and is going to make something beautiful.

P – Prayer:

God, forgive my unbelief today.  I feel like Sarah.  As much as I long for your promises to come true, I have trouble believing they are possible.  I am trying to wait well, but today it’s hard.  Renew your promises in me.  Give me the strength to patiently endure the wait.  Help me to use this time as a preparation for what have planned.  Sow in me the tools necessary to live out your promises well when they do come.  I put my faith in you.  Amen.

Link to a Bible Study Blog Post #16 - Oven Roasted Promises
Finding life and grace through God’s Word.
Bible Verse Image
Is anything to hard for the Lord?
Genesis Bible Study

A Faith Like No Other

When we were young, my siblings and I would make what we call a “super bed.” We would pull a mattress out of one of the bedrooms, lay it down and push it up against the couch for a back rest.  Next, every pillow and blanket we owned was piled on, popcorn was made, and we’d nestle in to watch a movie.

My dad prefers Westerns and Action films, so we saw many of the John Wayne movies, and all of the Indiana Jones trilogy (as it was back then).  In my favorite, The Last Crusade, the characters finally reach the sought after Holy Grail, the cup Christ used to serve the Last Supper.  The catch was, that in order to receive immortality, which drinking from the cup gave, you had to choose the correct chalice among a variety.

Spoiler Alert!! Donovan and Elsa, the two antagonists, get to choose first.  They pick up a bejeweled goblet.  It is beautiful and hasn’t aged. Donovan fills it with the water, drinks from the cup, and dies.  The knight who was protecting the Holy Grail states the now infamous line among my siblings, “He chose, poorly.” (You’ll have to watch it to get the effect, its’ phenomenal!)

It’s now Indiana Jones’ turn to choose and he finds an old clay cup.  It didn’t possess any jewels or markings and looked pitiful compared to the rest.  The knight then reinforces that Dr. Jones had indeed, “chose wisely.”

20170806_180427There are parts of us, I think, that desire the flashy and beautiful.  We don’t want the ugly or tattered look about us, in our homes or with our clothes (though the distressed look is in right now).  One may, like Donovan and Elsa, think that Jesus would have chosen the most bedazzled goblet for such an important occasion.  But really, nothing that Jesus has ever done has been conventional or even ostentatious.

Think about it, he was born in a small barn and placed in a manger. Instead of making friends his age, he spent his time with the geezers at the temple. He chose fisherman, and tax collectors to be among his confidants.  Miracles were performed for the sick, dying, and outcast.  He held up children as who we should be like.  He died a sinner’s death on a cross.

But he had impact.  It wasn’t an accident that Jesus whole life was lived among the destitute and marginalized.  His amazing love and power were able to be revealed by doing so. Throughout the Bible, the Old and New Testaments, God chooses the lesser, the weaker, and the fewer.   But his purpose thrives through the people he uses, no matter their status.

We head back to Genesis and pick up with the story of Abram.  Here we get to witness one of the greatest men of faith.  Let’s check out what happens!

S – Scripture: Genesis 13-15

  • 13:14-17 – “After Lot had gone, the LORD said to Abram, ‘Look as far as you can see in every direction–north and south, east and west. I am giving all this land, as far as you can see, to you and your descendants as a permanent possession.  And I will give you so many descendants that, like the dust of the earth, they cannot be counted! Go and walk through the land in every direction, for I am giving it to you.'”
  • 14:22-23 – “Abram replied to the king of Sodom, ‘I solemnly swear to the LORD, God Most High, Creator of heaven and earth, that I will not take so much as a single thread or sandal thong from what belongs to you. Otherwise you might say, ‘I am the one who made Abram rich.'”
  • 15:5-6 – “Then the LORD took Abram outside and said to him, ‘Look up into the sky and count the stars if you can. That’s how many descendants you will have!’ And Abram believed the LORD, and the LORD counted him as righteous because of his faith.”
  • 15:8 – “But Abram replied, ‘O Sovereign LORD, how can I be sure that I will actually possess it?'”
  • 15:17-18 – “After the sun went down and darkness fell, Abram saw a smoking firepot and a flaming torch pass between the halves of the carcasses. So the LORD made a covenant with Abram that day.”

20170806_204446

O – Observation:

  • The Lord tells Abram to pack up and go, and he does.
  • War breaks out and Lot is captured.  Abram rescues him and is offered a gift from the King of Sodom for what he has done.  He won’t accept it because he doesn’t want anyone else glorified but God for the wealth he has accumulated.
  • God promises many descendants and a ton of land for Abram and Abram believes him.  But he asks how he will know that God would keep his promise and the Lord makes a covenant with him.
  • God’s word is true and good, he makes promises and covenants and will be faithful in fulfilling them.  All wealth comes from him.
  • We sometimes have a difficult time seeing how God’s word will come to pass.

A – Application:

Time after time we see Abram reveal his solid faith in God.  Without hesitation he packs up his family and all of his possessions to move to wherever God leads them.  His and Lot’s flocks become to great to share the land and so Abram allows Lot whatever piece of land he desires.  Lot, of course, picks the super fertile and beautiful land.  I’m not sure what the land of Canaan was like, but Abram didn’t seem to care what it looked like or how fertile it was.

Then, he is offered all of the spoils from the war after rescuing Lot, but denies it all, wishing only to receive his wealth from the Lord. He accepted only what the Lord provided.  God asks him to look as far as he could in every direction and that would be the land given to his many descendants.  Abram believed him.

IMG_20170806_165538_668I feel like I would be more likely to take some time and pray about whether God was really calling me to move before I just got up and left.  Most likely, I would want first choice of the land, and pick the more lush and fruitful.  I’d prefer to store up some wealth or receive a reward for doing a good deed when it was offered, especially from a King.  But Abram didn’t.  In each scenario, Abram chose faith over wealth, comfort, and security. All of those things were found in God alone.

“It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith–for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise. Abraham was confidently looking forward to a city with eternal foundations, a city designed and built by God.” Hebrews 8-10

Abram was remembered for his faith because even though he couldn’t see God’s next move, he trusted whole-heartedly that everything was taken care of.  He couldn’t see how God would provide an heir and many descendants and numerous as the stars when he was advanced in age.  But he believed what God had said and trusted that he had a way of making it happen.

What if Abram didn’t have faith that God would fulfill his promises?  Where would he be if he had relied on his own strength and provision? Would God have been able to work as miraculously we will see him do?  He may have had more fertile lands, more wealth, more glory.  But still childless.

Just a side-note: Where would we be if Jesus chose the path of ease, made great wealth, and only spoke to the affluent?  Would we see his great love for all groups of people, not just the rich and those society deems “worthy”?  Would we believe that he wants to use us with whatever talents, strengths, weaknesses, and temptations we have?  Would his power be undeniable if he came to earth in a wave of strength instead of humility?

Okay, back at it: I have been caught in this before.  I didn’t get what I thought God had promised me and so I went crazy trying to control whatever I could to make sure his promise would be fulfilled at the next opportunity.  I believed that the first time I got pregnant, was God allowing his promise of having children, changing jobs, and getting a house were happening.  When all that changed, I was devastated and wanted to ensure that if I got pregnant again, it would for sure work.

I worked hard at get healthier, stronger, more rest, and my hormones back into place.  I thought this second time God would for sure let his promise play out.  But then it didn’t.  Once again,  I worked on getting healthier, cutting my hours, doing a fertility cleanse, mapping out the timing of when I should have my health together to try again.

20170806_203534I sat down to read my Bible one day in the midst of all of my crazy, and remember God telling me, “Seek me first.”  All this time I was trying to take control and do all that I could to ensure God’s promise would happen.  But I wasn’t relying fully on God and seeking him out above all else. I found peace in that and my mission changed that day.

Nothing I was doing was necessarily wrong, I really did need to get my health in order after two miscarriages.  That messes with you.  But my heart needed a change.  Here I was scrambling around to get everything on my end right, when God was just asking me to stop, rest, trust.

By stopping and waiting on the Lord, I felt led to quit my job of seven years and move up to a new town.  God provided everything we needed, every step of the way.  I look back at the choices Dan and I have made to get us to this point, but that was all because we were seeking God first.  How our finances, businesses, and family situations lined up was all God.  It was all because we were open to what he had for us.

Abram may have had less fertile ground by letting Lot choose first, less wealth by denying the King of Sodom, and more time waiting for a child by relying first on God and not himself.  He must have known, without a doubt, that God can work with dry ground, limited resources, and when the odds are against you.  I think he prefers it.  It shows how awesome he is and builds our faith to greater levels when we put our trust wholly in him.

I clearly faltered along the way, as you read above.  But God still worked and is still working at making something beautiful out of it all.  I’m in the middle of that now. There are spots on my life’s lawn, so to speak, that still look dead and unable to be revived. I still don’t have a child here with me, but I have a much greater trust that God has amazing things for my life.

What have you been hoping for lately?  Has God promised you something and you can’t see how it’s going to actually happen?  Maybe take some time today and ask God a promise he has specifically for you.  Talk to him about your fears, doubts, and insecurities.  Those are okay to take to him.  Let him build up your faith and renew your confidence in the work that he is doing in your life.  He hasn’t forgotten  you.  He knows your hopes and desires and wants to bless you.  Do you believe that?  Sit with that for a minute.  Let God speak to you about those right now.

God can do amazing work when we come to him. Take that step today.

P – Prayer:

God, thank you so much for taking the good and bad in life and making it beautiful.  I feel crazy and weak sometimes, but all you call me to do is have a little faith and seek you first.  Help me to do that Lord. I want the life you have for me, not one that I clumsily put together.  You are so good, Lord.  Keep my heart steady in you. Amen.

 

Link to a Bible Study Blog Post #15 - A Faith Like No Other
Finding life and grace through God’s Word.
Bible Verse Image
Because of his faith.
Job Bible Study

The Greatness of Leviathans

I remember sitting on a beach in the Dominican Republic at the end of a weeklong Mission’s Trip to an orphanage.  It was a perfect day.  The temperature, the breeze, the sound of the waves, and the calm.  I was filled with the blessing of serving orphans in need: playing games, teaching Bible stories, and filling their little hearts with love.  I was tired, but energized from it. I thought to myself, if only I could bottle up this day, to open again when I got home to the cold winter of Michigan.

I sat on top of this hill looking over the water and just marveled at God’s creation.  It was so perfect and beyond anything any human could devise.  My heart was so full of God’s magnificence in that moment.  It was pure joy!

Have you ever felt that way?  Maybe looking at a mountain, or the vast expanse of the ocean.  Or, at the zoo with all of the different animals, and the sky and all of its stars.  Sometimes it catches me off-guard when I take a moment to soak up all that God has uniquely created.  I’m reminded of how great he is and how small I am.  Small, but not insignificant or unloved by God.

20170801_065956_resizedAs the story of Job concludes, we finally see God appearing in a whirlwind to answer to Job.  But it isn’t what we expect.  Let’s read on to see how it all pans out.

S – Scripture: Job 38-42

  • 38:1-7 – “Then the LORD answered Job from the whirlwind: ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. Who determined its dimensions and stretched out the surveying line? What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone as the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?'”
  • 38:28-33 – “Does the rain have a father? Who gives birth to the dew? Who is the mother of the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens? For the water turns to ice as hard as rock, and the surface of the water freezes. Can you direct the movement of the stars–binding the cluster of the Pleiades or loosening the cords of Orion? Can you direct the sequence of the seasons or guide the Bear with her cubs across the heavens? Do you know the laws of the universe? Can you use them to regulate the earth?”
  • 38:36 – “Who gives intuition to the heart and instinct to the mind?”
  • 40:1-10 – “Then the LORD said to Job, ‘Do you still want to argue with the Almighty? You are God’s critic, but do you have the answers?’ Then Job replied to the LORD, ‘I am nothing–how could I ever find the answers? I will cover my mouth with my hand. I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say.’ Then the LORD answered Job from the whirlwind: ‘Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them. Will you discredit my justice and condemn me just to prove you are right? Are you as strong as God? Can you thunder with a voice like his? All right, put on your glory and splendor, your honor and majesty.'”
  • 40:10-11 – “And since no one dares to disturb it (the Leviathan), who then can stand up to me? Who has given me anything that I need to pay back? Everything under heaven is mine.”
  • 42:1-6 – “Then Job replied to the LORD: ‘I know that you can do anything, and no one can stop you. You asked, ‘Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I–and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me. You said, ‘Listen and I will speak! I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.’ I had only heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.'” 
  • 42:8 – “So take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer a burnt offering for yourselves. My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer on your behalf. I will not treat you as you deserve, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has.”
  • 42:10 – “When Job prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes. In fact, the LORD gave him twice as much as before!”
  • 42:16-17 – “Job lived 140 years after that, living to see four generations of his children and grandchildren. Then he died, an old man who had lived a long, full life.”

20170731_210632_resizedO – Observation: 

  • God is All-Powerful, the mighty Creator of everything, supreme, forgiving, and the giver of everything we have.
  • If we are no match for God’s creations, we are definitely no match against God.  We have no standing against him.  He controls all and created all.
  • When things fall apart it seems natural to question who God is and why he does what he does.  But we have no business questioning him.  That takes a lot of trust!
  • Job’s friends receive God’s grace despite them speaking inaccurately about it.  God knows our weaknesses and offers grace when we repent.
  • Job asks for forgiveness for questioning God though he did not speak falsely like his friends did.  He receives God’s blessing of twice what he had before.  His life is restored two-fold and he lives a long and full life.  How amazing!
  • God can bless us beyond what we hope or imagine when we endure hardships and stay true to all that he says he is and can do.
  • What Satan thought would be a victory, God had control over the whole time and came out on top.  It could only have been God that restored Job and not by any works that he did.
  • How many people were changed and blessed because of Job’s redemption story?  How much more glory was brought to God by those around him and after him due to his amazing comeback brought about only by God’s hand?

A – Application: 

I love this interaction between God and Job.  I think I expected God to explain to Job how Satan came and wanted to test Job’s faith, saying that it was only because God had given him so much.  The reason for all of his troubles, was to prove that it was Job’s faith and not his wealth that made him righteous before God.

But God doesn’t explain any of that.  He reminds Job of all of the great and powerful things he has done and controls.   You wouldn’t go up a Leviathan, God states, why would you consider going against the Creator of the great beast.  Who is Job (or anyone) to question anything that God does?

20170731_175822_resizedChapter 40, verse 8 I believe explains Job’s fault in all of this, “Will you discredit my justice and condemn me just to prove you are right?” Job is so set on proving his innocence and God’s wrongfulness in punishing him, that he forgets that God can do anything and control everything.  God doesn’t need any explanation for what he does.  He is always right.

Are you okay with that too?  Can you be satisfied that God gives his consent for certain things to happen and doesn’t need to give a reason why?  Can you consolidate the idea that God  allows us to go through seemingly unbearable trials and yet has an all-consuming, unconditional love for us.  And for each and every one of us.  I can’t explain either.  Can you? Are we supposed to?

It doesn’t seem like, from this story, that we are to question God’s actions, only experience them and plant our feet firmly in him.  We are called to trust that he has everything working the way it is supposed to, for the good of all who put their faith in him.  That takes a lot of faith!

Then we see the end, where God blesses Job with twice as much as he had before once he repents and gives offerings for the sins of his friends. We witness Job standing strong and living many years later, blessed by God for enduring the tragedy of losing it all.  What a beautiful conclusion.

Yes, God has the ability to allow bad things to happen.  But he has even greater capacity to bless us beyond what we lost before.  He has the power to deliver us and redeem us from the dark that we feel surrounded by in times of trouble.

“If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. As the Scriptures tell us, ‘Anyone who trusts in him will never be disgraced.'” Romans 10:9-11

When all seems too far gone, and the road to recovery to long, just stop.  Breathe.  Step outside and feel the breeze on your cheeks, warm or cold, take it all in.  God is there.  Acknowledge who God is and who you are.  A sinner, craving for grace.  “Believe in your heart that you are made right with God…and are saved.”

“Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow–not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below–indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:35-38

Nothing can separate us from the love and power that God has. Nothing. Just sit with that for a moment.  Wherever you are and whatever you are going through, just take that in.  Our God is so good.  He allows trials, yes, but he never leaves us to face them alone and he always provides an ending with blessing and abundant life, whether on this earth or in heaven.  Trust in his amazing love today, friend.

20170729_104637P – Prayer:

God, life can be hard.  I sometimes can’t help but question why you would allow some of the things you do.  But you don’t have to give the answers and you don’t even have to make good out of those things.  Yet you do because you love me, more than I know. And nothing can separate me from that love. Thank you for that.

Lord, strengthen those who are in the middle of a trial today.  Help them to feel your love and power working in their lives amidst the tragedy and unknown.  You allow us to see all that we need to and you work in ways we know and don’t know.  You are so much more that I can imagine.  Thank you for that.  Amen

Link to a Bible Study Blog Post #14 - The Greatness of Leviathans
Finding life and grace through God’s Word.
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Job Bible Study

All He Had

“My name will be great among the nations, from the rising to the setting of the sun.” Malachi 1:11

Sometimes I read scripture and I’m led back to The Garden, where it all began.  God creates this majestic, beautiful, pure, and innocent dwelling for plants, animals, and humans.  I love that picture! How peaceful and calm a place like that would be, with uninterrupted and undistracted fellowship with God. Oh, to be able to walk along the crystal rivers with the Lord at my side.  Feeling the fresh air and smelling the flowers would be like Heaven, I imagine.

But he placed a choice in The Garden for humans.  Though we were created in his image and meant to live in close relationship with him, he still gave us the option.  Unfortunately, we chose to eat from the Tree of Good and Evil.  Satan, knowing of our desires (which we may not have known we had in us), deceived us and birthed the new emotions of pride, envy, lust, and much more.

Since God is righteous, sin could not be in his presence (another dirty trick from Satan).  This is where we witness the first sacrifice needed to atone for sin and the separation between God and man because of it. We also see the consequences of sin with Adam and Eve being banished from the Garden of Eden and cursed with trials and pain.

20170729_111119So begins the narrative of God working to redeem his beloved creation.  This battle arises for the souls of his people. With that, the characteristics of God are revealed in part.  We see his righteousness, love, justice, jealousy, mercy, and anger, to name a few.

I can’t say whether God had intended for the world to turn out the way it has.  I’m not sure this was part of his original plan for his creation.  But throughout the Bible (and thank goodness we have this good book), we see God unleashing all of who he is, all of this power and control, and every heavenly and earthly resource he has, to bring us back and make things right.

Job’s “friend,” Elihu, says in his rant, “If you sin, how does this affect God? Even if you sin again and again, what affect will it have on him?” This statement stuck with as I went through the SOAP process this morning.  It’s what brought me back to The Garden.  Let’s explore it a little more, shall we?

S – Scripture: Job 35-37

  • 35:1-3 – Then Elihu said: “Do you think it is right for you to claim, ‘I am righteous before God’? For you also ask, ‘What’s in it for me? What’s the use of living a righteous life?'” 
  • 35:6-8 – “If you sin, how does that affect God? Even if you sin again and again, what effect will it have on him? If you are good, is this some great gift to him? What could you possibly give him? No, your sins affect only people like yourself, and your good deeds also affect only humans.” 
  • 36:7-11 – “He never takes his eyes off the innocent, but he sets them on thrones with kings and exalts them forever. If they are bound in chains and caught up in a web of trouble, he shows them the reason. He shows them their sins of pride. He gets their attention and commands that they turn from evil. If they listen and obey God, they will be blessed with prosperity throughout their lives. All their years will be pleasant.”
  • 36:16-17,21 – “God is leading you away from danger, Job, to a place free from distress. He is setting your table with the best food. But you are obsessed with whether the godless will be judged. Don’t worry, judgment and justice will be upheld…Be on guard! Turn back from evil, for God sent this suffering to keep you from a life of evil.”
  • 37:5-7 – “God’s voice is glorious in the thunder. We can’t even imagine the greatness of his power. He directs the snow to fall on the earth and tells the rain to pour down. Then everyone stops working so they can watch his power.”
  • 37:19-20 –  “So teach the rest of us what to say to God. We are too ignorant to make our own arguments. Should God be notified that I want to speak? Can people even speak when they are confused?”

O – Observation:

  • Elihu brings up a questions that Job had previously asked – What good is it to be righteous when everyone ends up in the same place?
  • Elihu is saying that whether we are good or bad, it doesn’t affect God.  It only affects the person (in the case of righteousness) or others near us (when sin is involved).
  • The good and forgiven will be blessed and the wicked punished.
  • Adversity gives light to sin, Elihu says.  This is Job’s opportunity to turn from sin and away from the dangers of it.
  • “Justice and judgement will be upheld.” Yes, on God’s timeline not ours.

20170730_141242A – Application:

“He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect.
Everything he does is just and fair.
He is a faithful God who does no wrong;
how just and upright he is!” Deuteronomy 32:4

“Listen! The LORD’s arm is not too weak to save you, nor is his ear too deaf to hear you call. It’s your sins that have cut you off from God. Because of your sins, he has turned away and will not listen anymore.” Isaiah 59:1-2

“You must worship no other gods, for the LORD, whose very name is Jealous, is a God who is jealous about his relationship with you.” Exodus 34:14

“This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all…But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” 1 John 1:5&9

“God is an honest judge. He is angry with the wicked every day.” Psalm 7:11

“But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ.”                            Romans 15:5

“God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”          Romans 5:20-21

I know, I went a little verse crazy.  But, oh my goodness, it’s all good stuff!  What Elihu said about how our sin and righteousness don’t affect God got me going.  I had to unpack this.

There is part of me that is okay with knowing that God can ultimately work his plan whether I am righteous or wicked.  His purpose will transcend anything I do.  I know that temptation surrounds me and I will fall sometimes, God will still work.  There are seasons where I will be obedient and more “righteous,” and God will still work.  20170730_141309

I also agree that God’s character was never affected by my sin, but like I mentioned before, all of who he is was unleashed when sin entered the world.  It didn’t change him, it allowed him to reveal all that he was and all that he could do.  But based on the actions after “The Fall,” God’s plan was affected, and every action since has been to bring his people back to himself (that’s the other part of my thinking).

God is Righteous, and therefore, sin (and sinful people) can be nowhere near him.  He is Just, and so all acts of disobedience must be punished, or reconciled. God is angry at the wickedness of the world.  He hates it! Our God is Jealous and longs dearly for us to be with him.  He will go to any lengths to get us back to him.  God has unconditional love and mercy for us.  This is a free gift, given and not earned by anything we can do because we are all sinful.

God is all of these things, and has to be all of these things in order for us to be saved.  These verses in Job not only take me to The Garden, but to The Cross.  When sin entered and we were separated, God devised a plan to take out the penalty of sin once and for all and give us eternal fellowship with him in Heaven.  He would ultimately win the war against the devil and be reunited with his precious creation.

It took all that he is and all of his resources re-write history with The Cross.  He sent his Son, part of himself, to be the sacrifice to atone for all of the world’s past, present, and future sins.  It was his righteousness, justice, anger, jealousy, love, and mercy that made the event on the Cross as powerful as it was.  What an amazing gift!

I ponder God’s story throughout the Bible and I am in awe.  Everything he has done was because of his supernatural, unconditional, unexplainable love for his creation that he made so long ago. God was called to action that day in the Garden of Eden.  Why he put the choice between him and the tree in the Garden, I don’t know.  But I know the sweetness of this grace.  I feel the power of his justice and jealousy in my life and long to be in his presence one day, wrapped in his loving arms, in purity and innocence because of the Cross.  I get teary-eyed just thinking of how much someone could love me so much and die for me, despite my unrighteousness.

20170730_141025P – Prayer:

Thank you, Lord, that you didn’t just leave me to the fate of death because of sin.  Thank you for loving me so much that you sent your son to pay the penalty.  Life would be hopeless without it.

God, you are so much.  Too much to comprehend.  I am in awe of all that you are and all that you have done for the world and for me.  God, I lift up all of those who are searching for answers.  I pray that they would be able to step out in faith today and accept all of the known and unknown things about you.  It’s easy to get caught up in the incomprehensible and miss out on the life-changing act of accepting your gift by faith.  Lord, break down those walls that you might be able to enter in those lives that you have been working on reaching.

You are so good.  You are so much more than I can think or imagine.  Amen.

Link to a Bible Study Blog Post #13 - All He Had
Finding life and grace through God’s Word.
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God unleashed every heavenly and earthly resource he has to be us back and make things right.