Saturday, February 28, 2015

Psalm 59: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God

Martin Luther drew upon Psalm 46 for his classic Reformation hymn.  The image of  God as our mighty fortress, however, can be found in numerous psalms, including Psalm 59.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Job 13: Another Attribute Of God

Job recognized God's power and testified to His authority in chapter 12.  In chapter 13, Job turns to emphasizing another essential characteristic we associate with the Lord: His goodness or justice.

Job 12: The Definition Of God

Just what is it that makes God God?  Is there one defining characteristic?  The Bible is full of attributes that we ascribe to God.  For instance, we know that He is love, that He is holy, that He is good, and that He is merciful.  But for many of us, and certainly for Job and his friends, the overriding characteristic associated with God is Power.  God is known to be all-powerful.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Job 11: "You're Actually Getting Off Easy"

On the list of "Top 10 Things You Shouldn't Say to the Suffering," we would surely find Zophar's choice words of "Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves" (vs. 6). Zophar believes that, in spite of everything that Job has been through, he's actually getting off easy!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Job 10: "Hey God, Pick On Someone Your Own Size!"

Job continues to vent and unleash his emotions in chapter 10 by questioning why God is picking such an unfair fight with a mortal like him (vs. 1-2).  He points out that God is vastly superior to himself, and that it is therefore very unsporting of God to bring such disaster upon Job (vs. 3-17).  The chapter concludes with a return to Job's earlier expressed desire to never have been born than to go through such a life of exquisite pain, loss and tragedy. He states that he simply wishes to be left alone (vs. 18-22).

Job 9: "It's Not A Fair Fight!"

In chapter 9, Job continues crying out against the unfairness of his situation.  He attempts to plead his case (that he has been wrongfully and unjustly punished with suffering) before God.  The only problem is - Job realizes that arguing with God is an impossible task.  It is simply never going to be a fair fight.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Job 8: "People Always Get What They Deserve"

Bildad the Shuhite wants to weigh in on what Job just said.  Bildad is concerned for God's reputation - Job is insinuating that the righteous don't always prosper and the wicked don't always suffer.  To Job's friends, this assault on God's character is nearly blasphemous!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Psalm 58: Thirsty For Vengeance

Some of psalms offend our modern sensibilities.  Psalm 58 is a good example.  We don't normally look forward to washing our feet in the blood of the wicked.  We know we shouldn't wish death and destruction upon our enemies. Such language may make us uncomfortable and lead us to wonder: "Where has the compassion and grace of God gone?"

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Job 7: A Closer Look At Job's Sufferings

As Job continues to protest against the injustice of his situation and maintain his innocence in chapter 7, we gain a new appreciation for some of the struggles and sufferings that he is going through.

Job 6: "Nobody Knows The Trouble I've Seen"

Job replies to Eliphaz over the course of the next two chapters.  He makes a number of points about his situation:

  • He is enduring great suffering (vs. 1-7)
  • He believes God is responsible (vs. 4)
  • He still wishes he were dead (vs. 8-10)
  • He is worried that his suffering will cause him to sin against God (vs. 10)
  • He feels completely hopeless (vs. 11-13)
  • His friends are as worthless as a dry riverbed (vs. 14-21)
  • He still believes himself to be an innocent man (vs. 24-30)

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Job 5: "God Will Do Right By Those Who Get Right"

Perhaps realizing that his words have been more accusatory than comforting, Eliphaz calibrates his tone in chapter 5.  Instead of focusing on his certainty that only the wicked are punished like Job has been, he decides to accentuate the positive.  It is not too late for Job!  If Job throws himself upon God's mercy and gets right by Him, then he can trust God to do right by him.

Job 4: "Hey Job, Only The Wicked Suffer"

In the friends' attempt to diagnose what has happened to Job, Eliphaz is the first one out of the box.  He begins by gently asking for permission to speak, but then poses a series of troubling and provocative questions to Job.

Job 3: In The Pit Of Depression

Starting with Job 3, the complexion of the book changes.  We no longer get the revealing glimpses behind the veil separating heaven and earth.  All we are left with is the facts on the ground: An ostensibly righteous man has lost everything and been left in physical agony with a painful disease.  The remainder of this book is a series of poetic dialogues between Job and his friends as they attempt to make sense out of his circumstances.  Why has this happened to him?  We, the readers, know because we've been told.  Imagine how it must have seemed to them without this inside knowledge.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Job 2: From Bad To Worse

Having failed to turn Job against God by taking away all of his blessings, Satan ups the wager.  He now proposes that Job's righteousness stems only from his fear of dying.  Satan challenges God to allow Job to suffer a dreadful disease and bring him to the brink of death.  That, he is convinced, will be enough for Job to curse God to His face.  God permits the testing to continue, with the sole provision that Job's life be spared.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Job 1: A Glimpse Behind The Veil

What is the relationship between righteousness and suffering?  That is the key question explored in the Book of Job.  The answer may disturb you.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Psalm 57: Where To Turn

Psalm 57 is a record of David recounting a familiar problem: he is in trouble and is turning to God for help.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Genesis 50: God Intended It All For Good

One of my seminary professors had a saying: "God can write straight with a crooked stick!"

Genesis 49: A Father's Good-bye

"When Jacob ended his charge to his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed, breathed his last, and was gathered to his people" (vs. 33).  In Genesis, 49, Israel, son of Isaac, grandson of Abraham, dies.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Genesis 48: Twelve or Thirteen?

Twelve is a popular number in scripture.  Jesus had twelve disciples, reflecting the twelve tribes of Israel.  Yet there is also something a little off to the reckoning of Israel's children and the subsequent tribes.  Do we really have twelve tribes of Israel, or thirteen?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Genesis 47: The Price Of Freedom

For what would you sell your freedom?  At what cost would you set your liberty?

Genesis 46: Into Egypt

As you probably know, one of the pivotal moments of the Old Testament occurs when the descendants of Israel leave their slavery in Egypt behind in a great Exodus.  For those who may be wondering, "Well, how did the Israelites come to be in Egypt in the first place?", Genesis 46 supplies the answer.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Genesis 45: A Series Of Awkward Conversations

OK, so how do you tell your long-lost brothers that you've been pulling their leg for months and pretending to be a stranger when in fact you really knew who they were all along?  And what do you say to your brother that you ganged up on with the rest of your siblings and threw into a pit and then sold into slavery?  And just how do you go about confessing to your aged father that the son you let him think was killed by wild animals years ago is actually still alive - and you were responsible for his disappearance?

Genesis 44: ...Bad Copt

Bet you didn't know that Joseph could be just as sneaky as his father!  In Genesis 44, he continues his masquerade while driving his brothers to the brink of insanity by playing Bad Copt.  Joseph once again has their money planted back in their sacks, with the additional measure of ordering his own silver cup hidden among Benjamin's things.  Once his brothers are one their way, he springs the trap and has them arrested.  They hotly deny any misdeeds and even offer that any brother of theirs who stole the silver cup should be killed.  You can almost hear a collective gulp when Benjamin's sack is found to be the one containing the contraband.  Benjamin is going to have to pay - and he will certainly never make it back to their father in Canaan!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Genesis 43: Good Copt...

Joseph's mind games with his brothers continue in Genesis 43.  Though Israel had at first insisted that Benjamin would only go to Egypt over his dead body, that eventually became a real possibility.  The severe famine was continuing, and only the Egyptians had food.  When Israel's family ran out of grain again, they felt they had no choice but to make a return trip to Egypt and face that paranoid administrator who seemed to have it out for them for some reason.

Genesis 42: What Goes Around Comes Around

Well, well, well.  Look who dropped down to Egypt to pick up some food for their family in the midst of this terrible famine!  It is ten brothers from the land of Canaan.  They say that they are all the sons of one man.  They have one other brother, the youngest, still at home with their father.  And they have one brother who is no more.  (Of course, that brother who is no more just happens to be the one to whom they are telling their story and trying to buy grain from.  The beauty part is that they have no idea they are standing before their brother Joseph!)

Friday, February 6, 2015

Psalm 56: In God I Trust

Americans are used to hearing the phrase, "In God We Trust."  It is printed on our currency and makes a handy motto.  It kind of just rolls off the tongue and sounds almost soothing.  But what if we were to personalize this expression and make it first person singular?  How would we feel about saying, "In God I Trust?"

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Genesis 41: Reversal of Fortune

One thing that is very true in the Bible as well as in our daily life: Things change.  As the old proverb steadfastly testifies to every age, "This, too, shall pass."  For Joseph, his time spent in slavery and in prison came to an end, and he was catapulted into a position of authority.  For Egypt, seven years of plenty would be followed by seven years of famine, and the nation would be transformed.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Genesis 40: Dreams Can Come True

Joseph may have been in prison, but he didn't languish there.  He kept busy, helping administer in the jail despite his difficult circumstances.  One of the lessons we see in the life of Joseph is to bloom where you're planted - to make the most out of the situations you find yourself in.  Joseph consistently did that, and it always prepared him for advancement.  Even if it sometimes took quite awhile for him to be noticed.

Genesis 39: A Woman Scorned

You know what they say about "hell hath no fury...?"  Well, our friend Joseph is about to discover the truth of that timeless proverb.  Who knows?  Maybe it was even Joseph that coined the phrase after his experience in Egypt!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Genesis 38: Shades of Jerry Springer!

Because of its cultural distance from us, Genesis 38 can be a little confusing.  Who is at fault, and why?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Genesis 37: Bye, Bye Joseph

I have heard contrasting opinions when it comes to Joseph.  Some see him as an innocent victim of family dynamics that resulted in him suffering unjustly due to the jealousy of his brothers.  Others view him as a snot-nosed little brat who tattles on his brothers and has delusions of grandeur when he dreams of being exalted among his family.  How do you see him?