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Choose Friends Carefully

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Today’s Bible Reading: Job 16-19:29; 1 Corinthians 16:1-24; Psalm 40:1-10; Proverbs 22:1

When we are in agony because of the circumstances of life we need comfort; we don’t need people telling us what a horrible life we have lead. Yet that is exactly what Job’s “friends” do. Instead of encouraging Job, they add to his grief (Job 16:5).

Its easy to let our emotions get the better of us as they do Job in Job 16:9-12. God did not hate Job. No matter what we are going through God is with us and continues to love us. Trials are opportunities to grow closer to God and to develop our character (James 1:2-4).

The emotional distress Job was under plays out in Job 16:19 as he appeals to a God who just a few verses before he thought hated him. But since Job’s own friends provided no relief, Job turns to God (Job 16:20). When we have no other options in life, we still have God.

Could you imagine laying on your deathbed, surrounded by people who do nothing but tell you what a terrible person you’ve been? (Job 17:1-2).

Victory over trials comes through endurance (Job 17:9) which is what we read in James 1:2-4. The “righteous” (those who know God) understand this. Through such trials we become stronger so that when the trial is over we are better for having gone through it.

Bildad reiterates his belief in Job 18 – that there is a direct cause and effect relationship at work in Job’s life. Since Job was suffering, he must have done something wrong. But that is not how the world works, as we’ve already learned this year. Not every bad thing is explainable. Nor is every bad thing really bad. God intends everything for good. When going through a difficult time we can ask ourselves, “How can I get out of this?” or (better) we can ask ourselves “What can I get out of this?”.

Bildad claims that God is revealing Job’s sin through this ordeal (Job 18:21). When, in fact, God was revealing Job’s faithfulness. Trials are tests. They test our faith in God.

Choose friends carefully. That is a big lesson to me from Job. Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar were not really Job’s friends. Job may not have realized this until these events. But he certainly did now (Job 19:1-5, 13, 19). There is a country song called “Find Out Who Your Friends Are” by Tracy Lawrence that speaks to this. When we go through tough times, we find out exactly who we can count on and who we can’t.

Its interesting that Job knew that he had a redeemer – someone to rescue him from his trouble (Job 19:25). Not only that, Job knew that this redeemer was not just a spirit but was flesh and blood who would “stand upon the earth”. That person was Jesus. Other Old Testament verses confirm this including Isaiah 49:26.

Today’s reading in Job wraps up with a sober warning. Job’s friends believed in a mechanical God who dished out right for right and wrong for wrong. They did not see God as the loving God that He is who does everything for our benefit. They had no personal relationship with Him and therefore were likely going to be condemned before Him after death (Job 19:29). This is what “religion” does to people. It depersonalizes God. It puts the emphasis on us and what we do rather than on God and who He is, which is where it should be.

In the final chapter of 1 Corinthians Paul addresses a few topics, including giving (1 Corinthians 16:1-2), which was a topic the Corinthians had asked him about. Notice that giving should be regular (“on the first day of each week”). When we do something regularly it becomes habitual and natural. We should also decide what we are going to give before we give it (“set aside”). This should be done prayerfully. Finally, the amount we give should be a portion of what we earned. So when we earn more money, we should give more. When we get a raise at work, the amount of money we give to God should increase proportionately.

Some of the Corinthians questioned Paul’s authority over them so he admonishes them in advance of Timothy’s arrival (1 Corinthians 16:10). Timothy was a young protege of Paul as we will learn later this year and could easily have been dismissed by the Corinthians due to his age.

David recounts five wonderful things God did for him in the first 3 verses of Psalm 40. God turned to David. He heard David’s cry. He lifted David up. He set David’s feet on solid ground. And He gave him a song of praise to sing. No wonder David goes on to say that those who trust in God will have much joy (Psalm 40:4).

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