My Redeemer Lives

We sometimes sing a song called I Know That My Redeemer Lives, and it may come as some surprise that the words from that song are inspired by an Old Testament passage. In Job 19:25, Job states:

For I know that my Redeemer lives,

and at the last he will stand upon the earth.

The term redeemer comes up some twenty-five times in the Bible, and, with just a couple notable exceptions, the term almost always refers to the Messiah. In this context, Job has lost everything, but he expresses confidence that His Lord will be a mediator, and advocate, a messenger, and a redeemer. Two thousand years before the birth of Christ, Job shows understanding that God will not leave His creation without access to Him.

Job’s Redeemer

In Job 9:33, Job longs for an arbiter, or a mediator, between him and God, so that one might argue his case. In I Timothy 2:5, Paul explains that we do have a Mediator between God and man who is both man and God – Jesus Christ. Then, in Job 16:18-19, Job expresses confidence in a witness in Heaven. He understands he has an Advocate before the father, one who will serve to represent those who cannot represent themselves. Job knows he has divine representation before the Father, and I John 2:1 reminds us that we also have an Advocate in Jesus Christ.

Returning to Job 19:23-25, Job expresses a desire to have his words recorded that others may know as he does that his Redeemer lives. Despite his deteriorating health and morale, he seems to be growing spiritually, expressing confidence in a Redeemer and a Savior who would appear before God with him. I Peter 1:18 reminds us we were delivered and redeemed by Christ’s sacrifice. Christ is our final Redeemer who delivers us from the chains of this life.

Finally, in Job 33:23-24, as Elihu is reminding Job not to be so self righteous, he speaks of a messenger without equal who lifts us from the pit. Isaiah speaks of such a one in Isaiah 61:1-3 who lifts His own out of darkness, cleansing them, and delivering them. Jesus, when speaking in His hometown, applies this passage to Himself. He is the messenger who soars above the thousands.

Conclusion

Throughout Job, a picture begins to form, and that picture finds clarity and resolution in the personage of Christ. Whether or not he understood the full import of his words, job looked beyond the things of this live, looking for reconciliation with His God. He had faith that such a Redeemer lives, and we can have that same hope. Jesus is our Advocate, our Mediator, and our Redeemer. He is what we need most, and He will cleanse us and lift us up when we turn to Him.

lesson by Tim Smelser

Humility & Peace

There is one vital ingredient if we are to have unity and peace: humility. We desperately need humility in our lives and in our congregations if we are to work for peace, and, if there is one congregation we can point to as needing humility above all else, that is the congregation at Corinth in the New Testament.

Here is a congregation where factions split behind various leaders and figureheads. Some promote celibacy while others live in sexual sin, calling it freedom in Christ. Some abuse the Lord’s Memorial. Those with spiritual gifts seem to vie for prominence and attention during worship, behaving disruptively to gain attention. There are even those who deny the resurrection.

Five times in his first letter to this book, Paul calls for humility: I Corinthians 4:6, chapter 4:18, chapter 4:19, chapter 5:2, and I Corinthians 13 then explains Christian love, a love that is not boastful but humble. The heart of Corinth’s problem is one of pride or arrogance. These are dangers Paul would reinforce with Timothy in I Timothy 3:6 and 6:4 as well as in II Timothy 3:1. Paul obviously sees humility as an essential ingredient in our Christian lives, especially if we are to live peacefully with one another and our God.

Pride and Separation

Pride and arrogance keeps us from our true selves. Proverbs 16:18 warns that pride leads to a fall. Why? Because we blind ourselves to our own limitations. Proverbs 14:16 warns against arrogant recklessness born of overconfidence. Galatians 6:3 tells us we deceive ourselves when we think we are better than we are. In short, we fail to see ourselves the way God sees us, and the way we measure ourselves differs from the way God measures us.

Pride also keeps us from one another. Galatians 6:2 calls on us to bear each other’s burdens. How can I do that if I’m too full of myself? Romans 12:3, after telling us to avoid conformity with this world and encouraging us to live sacrificially, begins an entire passage about service through humility. We should not esteem ourselves above our brethren. Verse 16 calls for harmony, asking us to put others first without conceit. I Peter 5:5 tells us to clothe ourselves in humility, and in Matthew 18:2-4, after the apostles had been arguing over who was the greatest, Jesus calls on His followers to have childlike humility if they would be great in God’s kingdom.

Finally, a lack of humility keeps us away from God. Proverbs 8:13 tells us God hates pride and arrogance. Chapter 21:4 calls haughtiness sin. James 4:10 tells us God lifts up the humble, and I Peter 5:5-6 says much the same thing, reminding us that God resists the proud. Think about the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5; in verse 3, Jesus blesses the poor in spirit, those who have been emptied of self. Once we empty ourselves of pride, we make room for God in our lives.

Conclusion

In Job 1:1, we are told Job was a perfect, upright man, and, in verse 8, God calls Job His servant. Chapter 2:3 repeats this assertion that Job is God’s humble servant, fearing God and turning from evil. Can God say the same about any of us? After chapter upon chapter of Job’s friends tearing him down, we come to Job 31:35 where Job declares His innocence before God. He becomes proud in God’s eyes, and God responds in chapter 38-39, putting Job in his place. Chapter 40:3-5 then records Job’s humbled response. Now, if righteous Job could not be prideful before God, how can we lift ourselves up in arrogance?

In humility, we can see ourselves as God sees us. Humility allows us to serve one another, and it is humility that will draw us nearer to God. As little children, we need to empty ourselves of self-interest and all arrogance, coming to him in meekness and humility so He will draw nearer to us.

lesson by Tim Smelser

Christ My Rock

We live in an unstable world. Economy, disease, politics – these factors and more create unsettling circumstances around us. Good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people. Jesus says, in John 16:33, that we will have trouble as long as we are part of this world. Where then do we turn in a life of uncertainty and troubles? Where do we take refuge when the storms of this life assault us?

God has promised us that He will be our refuge. He is our sheltering rock in the time of storms. He is our fortress against the battles of this life. Nahum 1:7, Psalm 18:2, Psalm 94:22, Deuteronomy 32:30, Isaiah 44:8 – these passages and many more call God our shelter, our rock, our refuge. He is the certainty we can have in a world of uncertainty.

Our Trust in God

We can trust in God even when friends and family fail us. The imagery of God as our refuge comes largely from the writings of David, one whose best friend’s father wanted him dead, whose wife and son turned against him on more than one occasion. David knew what it was to have friends and family turn on him. In Psalm 41:9 and Psalm 55:12-14 speaks of friends abandoning him. Likewise, Job saw his wife and friends turn on him in his strife, but, in Job 42:2, he turns his trust to God, expressing confidence in God’s deliverance. We will have friends and family fail us in this life, but we can be assured our God will never forsake us.

We can also trust in our God when the things in this life fail us, when we see the unfairness, crime, and injustice in this world. We ourselves have been victims of these things, and we cannot find shelter in the things of this world as long as injustice and unfairness continue. In the song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32, Moses contrasts the injustice of man versus the fairness of God, and Isaiah 26:4-7 calls God an eternal rock, the upright one who directs the path of the just. He alone is just and fair, and we can place our trust in the fact that His ways are right. He plays no favorites. We are all equal in His eyes, and we can trust Him to deal fairly with us in a way the world never could.

Finally, we can trust God to ultimately save us. Psalm 44:6 records the sons of Korah saying they would trust in nothing but God to save them. A strong military, a strong government, a strong stock market, our right to bear arms, strong foreign policy – these things will not save us in this life or the one to come. Jeremiah 11:12 criticizes the people of Judah for trusting their idols; we make idols of our investments, of our military, of our favorite politicians, of our savings. These are where we so often place our greatest trust and efforts, but they cannot save us. Only God can shelter our souls.

The Lord of Our Strength

Psalm 18, one of David’s later writings, proclaims God as our strength, fortress, deliverer. He is the horn of our salvation, our stronghold, worthy of praises. He is the living rock, the God of our salvation. Psalm 62:5-7 expresses confidence that God can be our only source of strength and salvation. This is the confidence we can have in our God.

We can look to Him for comfort, shelter, and strength. This comfort and security is open to all who would know Him and come to Him in humility and obedience. David, in Psalm 18, expressed a very personal relationship with his God, and David knows, in Psalm 18:20-26, that he is blameless before God, and he knows the relationship they have together. When we draw toward God, He draws toward us. We can have that same relationship, that same hope, that same security, even in the face of friends, family, and the securities of this world failing us.

lesson by Tim Smelser

We Don’t Lie to Google

Earlier in November, writer Ben Casnocha wrote this on his blog:

Someone once told me that there is nowhere we are more honest than the search box. We don’t lie to Google. Period. We type in what we’re thinking — good, bad, and ugly. There’s probably no piece of information that would better show what’s on someone’s mind than their stream of searches.

We don’t lie to Google. Nowhere is this more evident than in a handy feature Google uses in its search box called auto-complete. You start typing, and Google begins making suggestions on how to complete your search. If you’re like me, maybe you ignore these suggestions, but paying attention to them yields some interesting results.

Google simply makes suggestions based on the most popular search terms to follow the words you or I enter. Sometimes, the feature is useful, but, other times, we get a peek into the collective minds of others using Google. We see the brazen bluntness with which we search. Sometimes we see the ridiculous questions on our collective minds. Other times, we’re left scratching our heads, asking, “Wait, those are the most popular search terms for those words?”

Why Do We Trust Google More Than God?

We are always honest with Google. It may be the anonymity. It may be the literal nature of search engines. Regardless the reason, we are more forthright with a search engine than we often are with others, with ourselves, and with God. However much we try, though, while we may be able to fool others and ourselves, we cannot fool God. Let’s look at a couple examples of people doing this in the Bible.

  • Adam & Eve. In Genesis 3, God doesn’t give Adam and Even the answer they want regarding the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge, so Eve allows herself to be persuaded by the serpent. Adam allows himself to be persuaded by Eve, and, in the end, they seek to blame God for their own error by verses 11-13.
  • King David. In II Samuel 11, David commits adultery with Bathsheba, but that’s just a couple verses of the story. The rest of chapter 11 deals with David trying to cover his tracks, to the point, in verses 16-17, of conspiring to murder Bathsheba’s husband Uriah. He sinks deeper into sin to avoid others learning of his initial sin.
  • Ananias & Sapphira. In Acts 5, this pair seek to look as impressive as the Christians in Acts 2:44-45 and 4:32-37 who give up much, if not all, to share with the brethren. Ananias and Sapphira try to make themselves look more generous than they really are, but their lies find them out.

We can turn to the anonymity of Google to find justification or vindication for almost anything we want. Anything we want to believe, justify, or desire – there’s a site for it. We may be afraid that God won’t give us the answer we want to hear. We may feel like others will judge us if they know about our struggles or sins. We may try to feel better about ourselves by making ourselves look better to others. We wear these façades and shroud ourselves in subtle deceptions to make ourselves more tolerable to ourselves and to others. In the end, though, the only ones we end up fooling are ourselves.

Honesty with Ourselves, Others, and God

This is not a lesson about the dangers of the Internet or the evils of Google. Google is a collection of algorithms, and the Internet is composed of writings, images, and other media created by people. They are what they are. Rather, this is a lesson about trust. It’s about being honest with ourselves and the challenges we face, relying on our brothers and sisters to carry us through difficult times, and ultimately trusting in God to deliver us from temptation and forgive us for our transgressions.

  • King David. Psalms 3, 6, 11, 12, 19, 23, 25, 39, 51 – these and many more illustrates David’s complete trust in God’s word, His protection, and His forgiveness. Psalms 19 celebrates God’s word. Psalm 51 is a prayer for forgiveness after that sin with Bathsheba, and he demonstrates total submission and vulnerability before God. For this trust, God calls David a man after His own heart.
  • Job. Throughout his book, Job is very honest with God and with himself. Job stays true to himself regardless of his wife’s or friend’s opinions. They judge him, but he knows his heart, and Job 31 stands as an example of self-accountability. He knows his heart. He knows how he treats others. Therefore, he can stand before God unspotted.
  • Jesus. Where Adam and Eve reject God’s answer, Jesus submits in Matthew 26:36-42 when He says, “not as I will, but as You will.” His life of service culminates in an ultimate act of trust in God in His willing sacrifice on the cross. He knows God will deliver Him from death.

I Peter 5:6-7 exhorts us to humble ourselves and open up to our God. He cares for us more than any search engine ever can. Hebrews 4:15-16 assures us that our Lord relates to our challenges and shortcomings, and He is willing to lift us up if we only come to Him. Furthermore, Romans 15:1 encourages us to bear each other’s burdens. Galatians 6:1-2 reiterates this and tells us to be gentle with one another during these trials. We have a God willing to help us. We have brothers and sisters willing to help us, but we have to be honest with them and ourselves before we can heal.

Conclusion

God’s word will not always have the answers we want. We can find those answers all around us. It does, however, give us the answers we need. We all have faults. We all have challenges. We need to be honest with ourselves about those shortcomings so we can be honest with our brothers and sisters about them. We may fear judgmental attitudes. We may fear harsh treatment, but, if we love each other the way our God loves us, then we will bear each other up in patience and kindness. We should feel as open with each other and with God as we do with Google. Only then, can we truly begin to build the type of spiritual relationships we should have with one another.

Receiving Good & Evil

Then said his wife unto him, “Dost thou still hold fast thine integrity? Renounce God, and die.”

But he said unto her, “Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?”

In all this did not Job sin with his lips (Job 2:9-10).

No one enjoys pain, difficulties, and suffering. We all would much rather enjoy the good life, pleasures, and success. We often believe that we deserve to obtain the good things, and we do not deserve the bad things.

When pain, difficulties, and suffering come, we have an impulse to blame some higher authority. Many people blame God for their problems and difficulties. They do not understand how God could do evil to them, or, at least, allow the evil to be done to them. Where is God when there is pain and misery and suffering?

But notice, if you will, how one-sided we humans tend to be. While many will blame God for their failures or pain or suffering, who blames God for the fact that they are successful and healthy and prosperous? Many will claim that God does not exist on the basis of the existence of suffering, but no one in his right mind will argue that God does not exist because people find success, prosperity, and health. Job’s wife never imagined to tell Job to let go of his integrity, curse God, and die while their children and possessions remained! No – when people obtain prosperity, success, and health, they may very well praise and thank God for it.

It is easy for people to have such immature views and ideas about God. We know for certain that God does not tempt anyone with evil (James 1:13), and provides a way of escape from any sinful situation (1 Corinthians 10:13). But there is no guarantee that the life of the believer– or the life of anyone– will be free from pain, suffering, and misery. As we live our lives, we will receive both good and evil. If we are willing to honor and praise God when we receive that which is good, why should that change if we receive evil?

No one is saying that evil is desirable or pleasant, but it has its place in our fallen, broken world. Evil reminds us regarding the fundamental dis-ease that we should have while living on earth – this is not what God intends for the creation (cf. Romans 8:19-23). We must feel the “heat” of the law of sin and death at work in the world (Romans 5:12-18). If we did not experience discomfort, we would get rather comfortable on this planet and forget about Jesus and His sacrifice, just as the Israelites forgot about the LORD their God when they received the land of Canaan and enjoyed it!

Furthermore, human character is not developed through success and prosperity. Maturity and growth do not come from success and pleasure but from failure and suffering. Success and prosperity easily lead to belief in self-sufficiency and arrogance; trial leads to patience and growth in faith (James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:6-9). Job could only truly learn to appreciate all of God’s blessings when he suffered great misery in life, and it is the same with us. We only appreciate health when we suffer illness and pain. Success is sweeter after experiencing failure. Those best suited to handle prosperity are those who know how to live contented lives in poverty (cf. Philippians 4:11-12, 1 Timothy 6:8).

It can be guaranteed that we will receive both good and evil in life. Let us remember that through times of health or illness, prosperity or poverty, happiness or misery, God is there, He loves us, and desires for us to seek after Him (Hebrews 11:6). Let us hold fast to God whether we receive good or evil!

lesson by Ethan R. Longhenry

Seeing Ourselves in Job’s Friends

In the book of Job, three friends approach him in whom we might find ourselves. It is a book about an individual who is referenced by God, along with Noah and Daniel, in Ezekiel 14:13-14 as righteous. James 5:10-11 refers to the patience of Job alongside that of God’s prophets. We know him to be an exemplary individual who undergoes tremendous trials, never once defiling God with his lips. His friends, though, do not see him as such. When they come to him, he has lost everything – his children, his possessions, even his health.

In Job 2:11, his friends come – Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They come to comfort him, but they do not even recognize him when they arrive. They mourn him as if dead, and words fail them. They sit with Job for seven days without speaking. They see his grief and comfort him with no more than their presence. Unfortunately, their predispositions eventually lead them into error.

Seeking Truth Versus Proving Assumptions

Can we see ourselves in these individuals? These friends are believers in God. They know God’s attitude toward and judgement of sin. We would call them religious, and, when they speak, they touch on some truths. Zophar, in Job 11:7-9, demonstrates a good perception of God. However, he and his friends ultimately draw the wrong conclusions regarding Job. In contrast, Job’s attitude and perception changes as the book progresses. He seeks truth where his friends seek to prove their theological positions, unchanging to a fault.

These friends believe that faithfulness results in wealth. They are preaching an ancient gospel of prosperity, and they are unwilling to challenge their own assumptions in the face of the evidence before them. They also believe that illness results from sin. In Luke 13 and John 9, Jesus rebukes those who believe tragedy necessitates sin. In Job 42:7-9, God rebukes the friends for their steadfast misconceptions and tells them to ask His servant Job to sacrifice on behalf of their sins. Again, the distinction is that Job has been seeking truth where Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar have been trying to prove a point.

In Job 4:7, Eliphaz is basically saying Job is getting what he deserves, and Job 5:8 records this friend saying Job needs to seek God and accept His chastening. In verses 17-19, he calls on Job to repent, assuming sin in Job’s life, defending his position based on a dream. Bildad, in Job 8:1, offers the same theory: Job must repent and be pure to remove his troubles, appealing to their forefathers for justification. Zophar, in Job 11:1-6, goes as far as saying that God hasn’t made Job suffer enough. Again, these comforters have begun heatedly attacking Job. Because they feel the need to prove their points, they attack the one they came to comfort.

Miserable Comforters

In Job 6:14 records Job saying one that withholds kindness forsakes the Almighty, and, in Job 12:4-5, he expresses how easy it is to look down on those less fortunate. We fail to appreciate the difficulties of others. In Job 16:1-6, Job calls his friends miserable comforters, and he draws a contrast between them and himself. When we see others suffering, do we catch ourselves saying things like, “It’s their own fault?” “They got what they deserved?” “They have no one to blame but themselves?”

In Matthew 9:36, Jesus is moved with compassion when he is faces with the multitudes. Matthew 20:24 sees sickness and disease, healing those who come to Him. We should be more like Jesus’ and less like Job’s friends. We should be sympathetic to those around us. We should look on misfortune in kindness as Job encourages in chapter 6:14 of his book. Like Job’s friends, we can get the facts right while failing to bring others closer to God. We can be better friends, better comforters, and better representatives of God if we can remember to show kindness to those around us.

lesson by Jim Smelser