Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jun 6 2019 - Job 1 – Job's faces the loss of everything

We have looked at some of the wisdom material written by Solomon in the book of Proverbs and in the Song of Songs. We now turn to look at some of the other wisdom material in the Old Testament.

The Book of Job is a very difficult book to date. Some have argued that it is very ancient, maybe dating back to the time of Abraham or earlier. It does not fit into the narrative structure of the Old Testament but it is an example of the kind of wisdom literature found in many parts of the Old Testament and indeed in other cultures of the Ancient Near East.

The Chapter we have read today introduces us to Job, a righteous, upright and God-fearing man. He was very wealthy and had a large family and many servants. He was not only concerned to live a righteous life for himself, he was also concerned for the spiritual wellbeing of his children, making burnt offerings for his children in case they had sinned.

In the dramatic language of this story, Satan presents himself before God. The name "Satan" means "adversary" or "accuser". The picture is that of a courtroom. Satan comes before God as an accuser of God's people. God brings the godly life of his servant Job to Satan's attention. Satan's cynical reply is, "Does Job fear God for nothing?" (v. 9). Satan is arguing that Job's apparent fear of God is just self-serving. He is careful to honour God so that God will bless and prosper him. But, says Satan, if you take away the things that Job really values – his prosperity and his family – "he will surely curse you to your face."

God permits Satan's accusation to be put to the test. In one day he loses his wealth as Sabeans made off with his oxen and donkeys, his sheep and the servants looking after them were destroyed, Chaldeans made off with his camels and the house in which his children were feasting together was destroyed in a violent wind that killed them all. It is hard to imagine anyone suffering a greater change in circumstances in one day. But Job did not "curse God to his face." We read rather that, "he tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:

‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
    and naked I shall depart.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
    may the name of the Lord be praised.’

In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing" (vv. 20-22).

The Book of Job addresses the question, "Why do bad things happen to good people." We shall see Job and his friends trying to understand how this can be in the chapters that follow. But for today I want to focus on Satan's question "Does Job fear God for nothing?" Job's response to his loss shows that he does not fear God for the benefits it will bring him. In the words of Satan's accusation, Job does fear God for nothing – i.e. not expecting or demanding any return.

The supreme example of undeserved suffering is found in the Lord Jesus Christ. He was holy and entirely without sin and yet he suffered a cruel and agonising death upon the cross for our sake. We are blessed beyond measure not because of goodness or our holiness but because of God's grace towards us in the Lord Jesus. God has blessed us for nothing.

Moreover, we know that the blessings that we enjoy in him can never be taken from us. We can lose our possessions and even our family. We may deeply mourn their loss. But we still have Christ and all the riches of God in him. These are things that Job was beginning to learn in the pain of his loss.

Father God, we love you not in the hope of gaining something from you. We love you because you have first loved us and given your Son for us. Help us to keep loving and trusting when we face difficult days of pain and loss as well as when all seems to go well for us. So may others be drawn to trust in you and not in the uncertain riches of this present life.

Jun 6 2013 - Acts 4:1-37 – Incontrovertible power

Peter’s second recorded sermon in Acts had no sooner drawn to a conclusion than the Temple officials turned up in force – priests, a group of Temple guards with their captain, and some Sadducees. They were greatly annoyed not only because Peter and John had assumed an unauthorised role of teaching the people – in the Temple! – but particularly because they were asserting that in Jesus, God had raised the dead. The upper echelons of the priests who had control of the Temple were mainly of the Sadducees who denied that there was any resurrection of the dead. Their authority was being undermined in their own domain by common fishermen – from Galilee!

We see here a key theme which is going to run on through the Book of Acts. Paul makes use of this disagreement between Sadducees and Pharisees regarding the resurrection of the dead to his own advantage – but that’s still to come.

I can’t resist looking back at Peter’s remarkable sermon that provoked such anger. Peter’s message centres upon the fact that Jesus of Nazareth, crucified in this place just two months earlier, was raised from the dead by God. What irony that many of this very crowd of hearers had called for the release of a murderer and the death of one who is the source of life.

So Peter calls on the crowd to repent so that their sins may be forgiven: embrace the one they formerly rejected so that they may have life in his name – life from the dead. Peter says that as they turn to faith, God will send seasons of refreshing as foretastes of the time when Jesus himself will return from heaven and transform all things – the whole of creation shall then know his resurrection power.

The Sadducees are greatly troubled that in Jesus these men are preaching the resurrection of the dead. And that it is so difficult to controvert them because the power of the resurrection is evident both in the lame man leaping and the Galilean fishermen preaching – it is evident that they have been with Jesus, or rather, that Jesus is still with them, and in power! So they can do nothing except command them to stop such preaching.

The apostles react by telling their accusers that they will obey God rather than men. Then they go and call a prayer meeting in which they ask to be granted the continuing power to be bold in preaching. They know that Jesus is God’s Messiah, the one spoken of in Psalm 2. Jews and Gentiles may have plotted together to have him done away with, but God laughs at their plans; he has raised Jesus from the dead and made him Lord over the whole world. So they plead that more of his resurrection power may be seen in bold preaching and in evident miracles of life from the dead. This prayer is answered immediately as the building in which they are meeting is shaken. Oh for such prayer meetings that shake the world and anticipate the day of its final shaking when all things will be made new.

Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is not merely a doctrine for academic debate. It is a living reality at the centre point of history. It must shape our lives, our hopes and expectations, our behaviour and our message to others. It is to be made evident and incontrovertible in lives transformed – visible life from the dead. Where and when these things are real, these are indeed seasons of refreshing and anticipations of the world to come.

Lord Jesus, may your risen life be seen in us in generous shared lives, bold preaching and transforming power. Come shake the earth again.

Peter Misselbrook