Saturday, April 9, 2016


EASTER IS A WONDERFUL HOLIDAY. What greater reason to celebrate than the glorious death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ! Consider, for a moment, how hopeless the human race would be without this most blessed—but most painful—transaction. And then consider the vast wealth of hope we now have because of it—because of Christ—and rejoice all the more!

But it is not just something to be celebrated. Let Easter be a joyful reminder of the task Christ has laid before us; let it buoy us upward from the depressing chaos of the world by reminding us of the awesome power and love of our Savior. By all means, let us celebrate Easter with all joy and heartiness, but let us then proceed to share the good news with those to whom Easter is only a celebration of springtime, and let us cultivate the Holy Spirit that has so graciously been placed in us by a most benevolent God.

The utter dependence that mankind has upon Christ inadvertently became the theme of my longest and most noteworthy “Reflections on the Old Testament” this month. God’s timing is amazing, is it not? I happened to be primarily studying the Book of Job this month and nearly every chapter so obviously points to Christ as the only Hope that it has left me quite stunned time and time again! And the fact that such observations were made just in time for Easter was a “coincidence” for which I can take absolutely no credit. But then, is not the entire Bible about Christ? And should not every month of the year be bursting with His glory? Therefore whether or not such a “coincidence” should be a marvel is entirely dependent upon one’s perspective.

Whatever your perspective is, God is good! Let that be my final word.

 

Yours truly, I remain

Your humble servant and sister in Christ,
Ruth Verrinder, editor


Reflections on the Old Testament: Continued

 

In Nehemiah chapter thirteen, the temple of God is ill-used by wicked and negligent Israelites, and falls into disarray during the absence of Nehemiah. Among other things, the priest prepares a room in the temple for the wicked Tobiah, and the Levites are denied their portions. When Nehemiah returned, he wasted no time in setting things right: driving Tobiah out, cleansing the rooms, and returning to the Levites their portions and duties.

What is the lesson that can be gleaned from this?

Jesus Christ refers to Christians themselves as “the temple of God,” so this chapter can be directly applied to us. The Holy Spirit is our “Nehemiah”—getting us back on track and putting us back together when we fall back into our old nature. When we succumb to sin—which we all too often do—we are just like the Israelites, giving away the rooms of God’s temple to wickedness and neglecting the righteous duties assigned to us. But the Holy Spirit always rushes back at us with the guilt-inflicting question: “Why is the house of God forsaken?” and we are set in our place again (see Neh. 13:11).

It is best of all to cling tightly to the Holy Spirit and thus avoid falling into sin in the first place, but as long as we are on this earth we will make mistakes. The sign of spiritual maturity is ushering the Holy Spirit in sooner and clinging to it a little more tightly each time. Is not the patience of God a wondrous thing?

“Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?”—Esther 4:14, NKJV

God always puts us in the position in which we may best serve Him. That may mean leadership, like Queen Esther, or it may mean a humble, inglorious occupation. All we must do is make the best of whatever we are given—“Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might” (Eccl. 9:10, NKJV).

Do not think it strange when your position in life changes, or seems unfair; God orders the steps of those who serve Him, and never gives you anything unless you can use it for His glory.

The Book of Esther is unique in that it never actually mentions God, but is fraught with miracles and “coincidences” that speak loudly and powerfully of His handiwork.

The author (the human one, at least!) of this book, whether intentionally or unintentionally, gives glory to God without ever mentioning His name, but simply by presenting the miraculous redemption of the Jews which could only have been possible through the intervention of an almighty God.

“After this Job opened his mouth and cursed the day of his birth.”—Job 3:22, NKJV

Observe how, rather than cursing God when calamity strikes him, Job curses himself.

What a lesson we can all learn from Job! For whatever reason, the natural instinct in mankind is to blame God for our misfortunes, or if not Him, then the people around us. Rarely, if ever, do we consider our own shortcomings and follies, and how we might have prevented a misfortune, or what God may be trying to teach us through it.

Again, when calamity strikes, we are often driven to curse or blame someone or something. This is the experience that Job had, but he resisted blasphemy and instead cursed the day of his birth. He did not understand why God had let him live to see such days, but trusted Him as the omniscient constant amid so many variables.

 

Job chapter seven is a powerful portrayal of the state of man without Christ.

“My days are swifter than a weaver’s shuttle, and are spent without hope. Oh, remember that my life is a breath! My eye will never again see good.”—Job 7:6-7 (NKJV)

These verses summarize the unhappy plight of mankind since the Fall, and this entire chapter, as well as many other passages, elaborates on the depressing futility, hopelessness, and grief of a life without God.

“Like a servant who earnestly desires the shade, and like a hired man who eagerly looks for his wages, so I have been allotted months of futility, and wearisome nights have been appointed to me.”—Job 7:2-3 (NKJV)

But how does all this apply to Job—a man who followed God wholeheartedly; a man whom God Himself called “righteous”? Why is it that Job should find himself in such a state of hopelessness and misery?

We know from Job chapter one that God allowed Satan to afflict Job in order to test his faith. This may mean that, during this time, God had actually departed from Job, leaving him truly destitute, as his lengthy expressions of misery strongly indicate. But if this is true, then we are compelled to ask the inevitable question: why? Why would God forsake a servant as dedicated as Job? It could certainly not be punishment, as this whole thing was started by God telling Satan how righteous Job was. So what then?

The answer is simple.

At some point in the life of every Christian, God must show us how hopeless we are without Him—how we cannot survive without Him. Though we may acknowledge this truth, we never truly understand it until God withdraws His hand.

This is what happened to Job. Yes, he was a dedicated servant; yes, he was a righteous man—but all this was given to him by God, just like all his wealth, and God needed to take him to the next level. Job needed to really understand how much he relied on God, but he could only truly understand when God withdrew from him.

Now, mind you, God did not forsake Job. God promised to never leave us nor forsake us, and we know that God cannot lie.

Rather, by “withdrawing,” I mean that God removes everything you hold dear, until it is just you and Him, and then you realize that, though all through the long, hard process it felt like He really did leave you, He was always there, and that He is all you need.

In Job chapter nine, it is obvious that Job is longing for the Messiah. He compares his previously pious and prosperous life with the idea, implanted by his friends, that God is punishing him for some wrong-doing, and concludes that it is impossible for man to be righteous or to in any way please God. He compares the majesty and power of God with the insignificance and weakness of man, and concludes that it is impossible for the two to have any communion, but that, rather, mankind is simply an abominable parasite in the sight of God.

In the following verses, you can see Job’s miserable acceptance of his own degradation and humiliation, as well as his hopeless desire for purity and beauty:

“If it is a matter of strength, indeed He is strong; and if of justice, who will appoint my day in court? Though I were righteous, my own mouth would condemn me; though I were blameless, it would prove me perverse.”—Job 9:19-20, NKJV

“If I am condemned, why then do I labor in vain? If I wash myself with snow water, and cleanse my hands with soap, yet You will plunge me into the pit, and my own clothes will abhor me. For He is not a man, as I am, that I may answer Him, and that we should go to court together. Nor is there any mediator between us, who may lay his hand on us both. Let Him take His rod away from me, and do not let dread of Him terrify me. Then I would speak and not fear Him, but it is not so with me.”—Job 9:29-35, NKJV

Job speaks for all mankind. He finds himself condemned, perverse, without hope of righteousness; a man who “labored in vain” to attain righteousness and washed himself with “snow water and soap” only to be plunged into the pit of perversity by the pure holiness of God.

This is the outcry of mankind since the Fall: to be free from the humiliation of sin, to speak with God and walk with Him without fear or shame—to be as Adam and Eve in Paradise!

And here is the key verse: “Nor is there any mediator between us, who may lay his hand on us both.”

Job desires a mediator; someone who will close the great chasm that separates the Most High from the lowest of the low.

Who is the mediator between God and man? Who is the desire of all mankind? Who is the only hope of righteousness and salvation for the sons of men? And what cleanses all sin? Who but Christ Jesus, and His shed blood!

The Book of Job chronicles the outcry of a fallen world, and the miserable existence of man separated from God, with no one to stand in the gap.
Though often considered a depressing book, Job is a constant reminder of how infinitely important the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ really is.