Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jun 8 2019 - Job 3 – Job's complaint

It's not Job's friends who speak first but Job himself as he lifts up his voice in lamentation. Job had refused to curse God and die, and here also his complaint is not so much against God, though he does feel that God has hedged him in (v. 23); his complaint is against his lot in life.

The opening verse describes the lament which follows saying, Job curses the day he was born. As is true of most of us, Job's family had been in the habit of celebrating birthdays (see 1:4). But Job can celebrate his birthday no longer. He bemoans the fact that he was not stillborn or that he had died as he came from the womb (vv. 11, 16), or failed to thrive and had died before he was conscious of his own existence (v. 12). So black has that day become in his thinking that he wishes it to be entirely expunged from the calendar (v.6); he would like the sun to refuse to shine on that day so that an extended night skips over that day, reflecting his own dark feelings (vv. 4-4-6, 9).

Job's feels that his life has become one long catalogue of misery. The good days he enjoyed in the past (and threw back at his wife in response to her suggestion that he curse God and die, (see 2:10), are now all forgotten. He thinks that death would have been preferable to life, for in death he would have rested in sleep, beyond the reach of all pain and distress (v. 13). He would have shared the common lot of mankind, the great (vv. 14-15), the wicked (v. 17) and the slave (vv. 18-19).

But note that while Job longs for death and the release he believes it will bring him (vv. 21-22), he does not contemplate bringing about his own death. Though he has no peace, he cannot destroy the life that God has given. In 1:20-21 we read that when Job had lost possessions and family he had worshiped God saying:

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.

Now that he has lost his health and his whole life is a misery to him he still knows that it is the Lord who gave him life and it must be the Lord who takes it away.

So what are we to make of this chapter – how does this chapter minister to us?

I suppose in one sense it should make us thankful that we are not suffering as Job suffered; it should make us count our blessings. But there are many people, including many Christians, who suffer terrible pain and loss, who can identify with Job and who feel as he felt. There are many others who go through times of deep depression and who feel as he felt. What does this chapter say to them, or maybe rather, what does it say to us as we seek to come alongside them?

The first thing to say is that such feelings are genuine and honest. To tell anyone that they should not think like this is to make light of what they feel rather than seeking to be a help to them. We need, like Job's friends at the end of the last chapter, to mourn with those who mourn and to feel their pain with them – even if we have no idea what to say.

But secondly, the mystery of unjust suffering always takes us back to the Lord Jesus Christ. As he hung upon the cross the sun refused to shine and day became night. Just before he died, he called out in the agony of despair, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (see Matthew 27:46). Jesus also felt what we feel at the lowest point of our despair. He is able to help and comfort us in our time of need (see Hebrews 4:15-16).

Lord Jesus, we bring our pain and even our despair to you knowing that you love and care for us. Minister to us by your Spirit, and by your Spirit help us then to minister your strength and comfort to one another.

Jun 8 2013 - Acts 6:1-15 – Division of labour

One of the most notable divisions between Jews in Jerusalem was between those who continued to speak Hebrew (or more correctly Aramaic), and those who had adopted the Greek language and probably a measure of Greek customs. They would each have had their own synagogues with worship conducted in their different languages. The two communities probably viewed one another with a measure of suspicion.

The apostles would have been Aramaic speakers, but the growing church soon made inroads among the Greek speaking Jews. It would appear that the suspicion between these two groups did not immediately disappear once people became Christians. As we have seen, the early Christians were in the habit of sharing resources one with another. The apostles were now supervising a growing and widespread distribution of food to those in need – a kind of first-century food bank. Before long, some of the widows among the Greek speaking groups felt that they were not getting treated as generously as widows who spoke Aramaic – like the apostles.

I am reminded of how Moses struggled to try and settle the many disputes among the Israelites after they had been rescued from Egypt. It was just too much for him to do alone. Jethro, his father-in-law, told Moses to appoint others to help him out so that he could do what God had called him to do (Exodus 18).

Here, in Acts, it is the Spirit of Jesus who teaches the apostles the same lesson. The apostles encouraged the aggrieved community  to select men of integrity and spiritual maturity to help in the task of distribution – from the names that emerge it does seem that the helpers were to be from the Greek speaking community. These men were then appointed to their new task as the apostles laid their hands on them, signifying full trust and delegated authority for their ministry.

So the crisis was averted. The apostles could devote themselves to the work that Jesus had called them to do. Other tasks were also done well by others who were equally directed and empowered by the same Holy Spirit. As a result the church continued to grow and to prosper.

When power is retained in the hands of the few, divisions will multiply and the work will soon stagnate. When the many are freed to do the work to which God calls and equips each of them by his Spirit, divisions will be healed, much will be accomplished and the kingdom will increase. This is a vital lesson for us to learn in our day, just as it was in the days of the apostles.

But as the church grew and prospered among Greek speaking Jewish Christians, the Greek speaking Jewish community began to feel threatened. Steven, one of the seven chosen to help with poor relief, but evidently also a gifted preacher, was seized and brought before the Jewish Sanhedrin to face trumped-up charges.

If we hope to make an impact on the community in which God has placed us we must also expect to stir up opposition. If we are intent upon avoiding conflict we will end up watering down the good news of Christ until it is as ineffective as it is inoffensive.

Father God, help us to encourage one another in the work that you have given each of us to do. Give us discernment to see where Satan is stirring up trouble and division among your people and the wisdom to deal with it effectively so that all may work together in building your church and making Christ known. May we always bear clear testimony to the good news of Jesus both in the words we say and in the character of our shared life.

Peter Misselbrook