Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jun 7 2019 - Job 2 – Loss of health

Job has lost his wealth and his children. Satan the Accuser now says that if Job were to be deprived of his health, then he would surely curse God to his face. Again God allows this accusation to be put to the test. Job was afflicted with painful sores from head to toe. He seems to have been exiled from his house – his wife, perhaps, seeking to ensure that she did not contract any infection from him. We now meet him sitting on a heap of rubbish, scraping his skin with a piece of broken pottery.

This must have been a terrible trial for Job, particularly on top of all that had recently happened to him. But his situation is then exacerbated by his wife seeming to side with the unseen Accuser as she urges Job to "Curse God and die!" (v. 9).

We should be careful not to be too quick in condemning Job's wife. Thus far she had suffered the same losses as her husband and she must have been grieving deeply for the loss of her children. It is sobering to ask how we might have responded in such circumstances. But Job's response was  unhesitating: "You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" (v. 10). We are told that, "In all this, Job did not sin in what he said." The apostle James may have been thinking of Job when he wrote, "Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check" (James 3:2). Job shows remarkable faith in God in the face of all that he is suffering.

The chapter we have read then concludes with the account of three of Job's friends turning up to, "sympathise with him and comfort him" (v.11). As they approached the place where Job lived they saw a man sitting on a rubbish heap. At first they did not recognise that this was Job. When they did, "they began to weep aloud, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads. Then they sat on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights. No one said a word to him, because they saw how great his suffering was." (vv. 12-13).

This was sympathy indeed. They felt Job's plight and joined him in his exile in dust and ashes. Job must surely have felt some measure of comfort from such friends who were willing to come and share his humiliation. The problem starts when they cease to sit in silence and open their mouths.

How have we responded to times of loss, perhaps particularly loss of health? Have we complained against God as if we have a right always to be healthy and strong or have we replied with Job, "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?" Such acceptance of loss and suffering is not a form of fatalism but recognition that suffering is common in a fallen world and that we can trust God even at such times. When we hear of friends who face times of suffering and loss, how do we show our love and support for them?

Our precious Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, looked down upon us in all our suffering and need. He took pity upon us in our humiliation, when we were facing death. He came and identified with us – he sat where we sit and felt what we feel. But he did not merely come to share our suffering, he came to save us. He died for us, breaking the power of sin and removing its sentence upon us. He rose again from the dead as the author and giver of eternal life. He does more than sympathise with us, he gives us the sure and certain hope that beyond any suffering we may experience now, there is the prospect of an eternal weight of glory.

I have witnessed the powerful testimony of those who have lost children and health and are facing a lingering and cruel death, who have yet spoken of God's unfailing goodness to them in the Lord Jesus Christ. Their lives are a living demonstration that it is our gracious God and not the cruel Accuser who has the last word.

Father God, teach me to trust you in all circumstances and to be a genuine comforter to those who are facing suffering and loss. May we be more than conquerors through Christ who has loved us.

Jun 7 2013 - Acts 5:1-42 – Mind the gap

At the end of Acts 4 we have the second of Luke’s cameo descriptions of the life of the early Christian community in Jerusalem. It seems idyllic: they were all of one mind and shared what they had with each other so that there were no poor among them. This seems to be an echo of the promise God made concerning the plenty his people would enjoy in the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 15:4). The promised covenant community has at last been realised!

But this lovely description is immediately followed by a shocking story of deception and of judgment. Ananias and his wife Sapphira conspire together to sell a field and give some of the money to the apostles for distribution, pretending it to have been the whole amount. Their sin was not that of keeping part back – it was their money to do with as they wished. Their sin was in seeking to represent themselves as more generous than they were, the sin of deception and hypocrisy. When confronted with what they had done they drop down dead!

We should be careful of the simplistic view that the early church was a model of what the church should really be like. What we need to do, say some, is to become more like the early church in Acts. The truth is, we are like that church. God is at work among us as he was at work among them. Satan is also at work to destroy what God is doing; he’s at work today just as he was at work among those first believers. The call to us, as it was to the early church, is to press on in following Jesus, loving one another and witnessing to all that Jesus has done – not forgetting to fight the rear-guard action against the Enemy!.

There always was and always will be a gap between what we should be and what we actually are, whether as individual disciples or as a Christian community. We need therefore to mind the gap. To recognise the deceptive nature of our own hearts and the constant temptation to present a good face to others while cultivating hidden sins. We need, both individually and corporately, to press on to become all that God purposes for us to be in Christ: to make it our ambition to close the gap.

Later in today’s passage we read of some of the apostles being arrested for preaching concerning the Lord Jesus. Some members of the Jewish Sanhedrin wanted the apostles to be put to death, but Gamaliel reminded them that many other movements had come and gone. He concluded, “Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God” (Acts 5:38-39).

No doubt Gamaliel believed that these troublesome followers of Jesus were a temporary enthusiasm that would soon die away. On the contrary, it has proved to be a work of God that has lasted the test of time and that will outlast all human movements and kingdoms.

But what of our own profession of faith? Is it a sham and show like that of Ananias and Sapphira or is it the work of God, albeit encompassed in human frailty?

Father God, keep me from making a show of following the Lord Jesus Christ. Continue that work that you have begun within me until I am safely brought to glory, fully transformed into the likeness of Christ my Saviour. In the meantime, stir up the fire within me that I may bear witness to all that Christ has done in his death and resurrection. May your Holy Spirit use my testimony, along with the testimony of all your people to fill the earth with the good news that Jesus is the Messiah, to the praise of his great and glorious name.

Peter Misselbrook