The patience of Job…or not so much

People who reference the patience of Job have clearly never read the book. Job is a man and, in being such, he only has so much patience. The book of Job is also quite a comfort for someone afflicted with just about anything, because Job was afflicted with just about everything. Let’s hear a little from our friend, Job, and then we’ll get to James.

Job 3:11-13 

“Why did I not die at birth,
    come out from the womb and expire?
12 Why did the knees receive me?
    Or why the breasts, that I should nurse?
13 For then I would have lain down and been quiet;
    I would have slept; then I would have been at rest…

Job 14:1-3

“Man who is born of a woman
    is few of days and full of trouble.
He comes out like a flower and withers;
    he flees like a shadow and continues not.
And do you open your eyes on such a one
    and bring me into judgment with you?

Job 23:2-4

“Today also my complaint is bitter;
    my hand is heavy on account of my groaning.
Oh, that I knew where I might find him,
    that I might come even to his seat!
I would lay my case before him
    and fill my mouth with arguments.

This is me, slightly taking Job out of context and that’s not fair. Job vacillates back and forth, just like we do, between frustration and anger, understanding, angst, hope, asking questions, and jumping in with an answer too quickly. He’s a man, not a martyr. He’s a child of God, imperfect, but redeemed.

He’s not in the Bible because he was patient. He’s in the Bible because he was steadfast.

There’s a difference.

Let’s look at where James and Job meet in James 5:8-11. The first part of this passage overlaps where we left off in yesterday’s lesson.

You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door. 10 As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. 11 Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

The Bible never said that Job wasn’t angry, didn’t have to confront ugly emotions, nor does it say he gave great answers for himself or his friends. He simply gave God an open place to work, and that’s what we can do as well.

“You have heard of the steadfastness of Job…” 

We live an imperfect life with lots of bitter and lots of sweet. Steadfastness is holding fast, clinging to our Faithful Father through both. Job’s story gives us insight about how to cling when life is hard, as well as when it’s wonderful. Look up the following passages from Job and find what gifts God gives us to remain steadfast, even when we aren’t patient.

The Lord remains steadfast.

Job 10:11-13

You clothed me with skin and flesh,
    and knit me together with bones and sinews.
12 You have granted me life and steadfast love,
    and your care has preserved my spirit.
13 Yet these things you hid in your heart;
    I know that this was your purpose.

We read the Steadfast Word.

Job 23:10-12

But he knows the way that I take;
    when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold.
11 My foot has held fast to his steps;
    I have kept his way and have not turned aside.
12 I have not departed from the commandment of his lips;
    I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food.
13 But he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back?
    What he desires, that he does.  

We fix our eyes on Eternity, which is real and steadfast.

Job 19:25-27

For I know that my Redeemer lives,
    and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
26 And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
    yet in my flesh I shall see God,
27 whom I shall see for myself,
    and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
    My heart faints within me!

We are given the steadfast Holy Spirit.

Job 27:2-4

“As God lives, who has taken away my right,
    and the Almighty, who has made my soul bitter,
as long as my breath is in me,
    and the spirit of God is in my nostrils,
my lips will not speak falsehood,
    and my tongue will not utter deceit.

Like Job, I say and will probably continue to say ridiculous things in my days, particularly on the hard ones, the bitter ones, and the sad ones, but the Holy Spirit gives me breath and life. God’s Word keeps me grounded, and His Son keeps me fixed on all those blessed tomorrows of Eternity with Him, rather than the struggle of a moment.

James turns our eyes to our Savior. Read James 5:11 one more time.

Behold, we consider those blessed who remained steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.

Job is mentioned once, but James draws our attention to the Lord by repeating His name twice.

The Lord has a purpose.

The Lord is compassionate.

The Lord is merciful.

Many, like Job, have gone before us that have been steadfast because the Lord is steadfast. Who in your life has lived with eternity steadfast on their heart and mind?

Today, consider them, consider Job, consider the prophets, and consider the Lord. In the bitter and in the sweet, our beautiful Savior is always there.

Foot in mouth, rams horns, and blessed silence

Day 3 – Foot in mouth, rams horns, and blessed silence

Keeping silent is not in my nature. It is not necessarily opposed to my nature, but we all have things that God asks for us that are a tad harder than they would be for someone else. This is mine.

Patience, gentleness…and silence. These are my challenges.

One time in college, one of my professors turned to me and said, “I want you to count to ten before you answer a question in this class. Let’s just see if anyone else answers first. Ok? Just wait and see.” She was speaking the truth in love, for sure, and at the time, as hard as it was to hear, those words of truth cut straight to my heart and change began. To this day, I usually count to ten before answering anything in a group situation. And I still praise God for that admonishment to grow up. I didn’t get it instantly, but I got it eventually. And I’m still a work in progress.

God tells us there is indeed a time to keep silence. I love the language of the translation. I can picture holding silence as a precious commodity. In a world filled with noise, we have the opportunity, the gift from God, to hold silence close.

The Hebrew verb root “chashah”, for keeping silent in Ecclesiastes 3:7, is an active word. We are not simply silent out of happenstance, but we have chosen silence, we do silence, we choose inactivity even.

In a house full of small people, we try to teach the value of silence every day. My children, like myself, love to fill the void. Most of us, as moms or grandmas, or siblings, understand the value of silence. Noise, laughter, arguing, and daily living all compete with silence. And there is a time for these things as well, which is part of the essence of Ecclesiastes 3. The back and forth, the seasons and cycles of life.

What else does God have to say about the value of silence?

Joshua 6 contains a fun story many of us remember from our youth – Joshua and the Battle of Jericho. Read below and see how God worked in the silence and in the shouting.
Joshua 6:8-16 –

And just as Joshua had commanded the people, the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the Lord went forward, blowing the trumpets, with the ark of the covenant of the Lord following them. 9 The armed men were walking before the priests who were blowing the trumpets, and the rear guard was walking after the ark, while the trumpets blew continually. 10 But Joshua commanded the people, “You shall not shout or make your voice heard, neither shall any word go out of your mouth, until the day I tell you to shout. Then you shall shout.” 11 So he caused the ark of the Lord to circle the city, going about it once. And they came into the camp and spent the night in the camp.
12 Then Joshua rose early in the morning, and the priests took up the ark of theLord. 13 And the seven priests bearing the seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark of the Lord walked on, and they blew the trumpets continually. And the armed men were walking before them, and the rear guard was walking after the ark of the Lord, while the trumpets blew continually. 14 And the second day they marched around the city once, and returned into the camp. So they did for six days.
15 On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. 16 And at the seventh time, when the priests had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, “Shout, for the Lord has given you the city.”

Verse 10 above says that the people were instructed not to shout or open their mouth until they were instructed to do so. These instructions may seem odd to us, but God has that right. He has a plan and sometimes surprising, or contrary to our nature. Many times God works in the silence. When we seize the opportunity to hold our tongues in a stressful situation in particular, we let God do His work instead of getting in the way. God may call on us to speak, just as on the seventh day the Israelites shouted, but the time in between can be used to seek God, to pray for the words, to be given wisdom and insight.

Jesus took many opportunities to remain silent. When you read some of the examples, they are just beautiful. When the pharisees charged him, he sometimes answered and sometimes kept silent. Isaiah 53 tells us that He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, but did not open His mouth. And perhaps one of the stories where Jesus’s intentional silence is most clear is found when Jesus comes before Pilate.

Read the passage from Matthew’s Gospel in chapter 27:11-14, below:
Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You have said so.” 12 But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many things they testify against you?” 14 But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed.

Three times, Jesus keeps silence in this passage. Why? I don’t know, but what we do know is that God had a plan and Jesus was walking in and through that plan. Jesus was not looking to testify to skirt around the plan. He chose silence and left pilate amazed.

Finally, I discovered this beautiful verse at a time in my life when silence was my only option. When life itself had taken away my speech, when I was world weary, trampled on, and exhausted from the battle of it all…I could only be silent. Pay close attention to verse 14 below…a balm for the soul, sisters.

Exodus 14:13-14
And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again.The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

There are battles that are truly not ours. They are God’s. He would have us hand them to Him and let Him do what He does best.

A time to keep silence, it sounds restful to me. I pray today, sisters, that you find some rest in God, a moment to be silent in His presence and with His Word. You speak, Lord, we’re listening.
Discussion questions:
Are you naturally a talkative person or quieter?
When was a time you felt it difficult to stay silent and you should have (insert foot in mouth)?
When have you been blessed by a period of silence?

God’s time, my time, and getting them on the same page

Day Four – God’s time, my time, and getting them on the same page

Ecclesiastes 3:1 –
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
This verse is the introduction for the poetic form found in Ecclesiastes 3:2-8, which will be the bulk of our study. Take a moment and underline in your Bible or on your page how many instances there are of the word time in verses 2-8, found below.
“a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.”
28 times in 7 verses! 4x in a verse. Clearly a major message of this passage is time: God’s time, our experience of time, and where the two meet.
First, let’s firm up what we know about God’s time. You don’t have to go very far to get a good overview. Let’s look at verses from the end of Ecclesiastes 3, as well as a couple of other parts of Scripture.
Ecclesiastes 3:11, 14
“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end…I perceived that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God has done it, so that people fear before him.  That which is, already has been; that which is to be, already has been; and God seeks what has been driven away.
2 Peter 3:8-10
“But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.”
Acts 1:6-8
“So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Here are some touch points we learn from these verses:
·      * God’s time is indeed different from our own and it is something that is revealed to us as He sees fit.
·      * God makes everything beautiful in time. (Thank you, Jesus!)
       * The fullness of God’s time is written on our hearts. We yearn for Him and His time and our hearts know that the way we experience time is not all there is. Just as we long to know Him, we long to know and understand His time. In this we live in a duality. We seek His timing in our lives, honoring that He knows better and His time is better, but we also leave this work to Him. What does this balance look like? That’s a good question for discussion!
·       * Everything, absolutely everything happens under God’s counsel.
·       * God is concerned ALWAYS, first and foremost, with the salvation of people. In everything in our lives then, when we consider timing, we can ask ourselves “What is God concerned with here? Where would He have me place my priority?”
·       * The time of God is very much wrapped up in the character of God. We can not understand one without the other. For instance, God is merciful and looks for opportunities to show mercy and grace. We see this in His patience, His seeking “of what has been driven away”, and His sending of the Holy Spirit in Acts, for Divine guidance and comfort.
We want to believe that we have complete control over our lives. We want to believe that if we just manage our time well, then the ducks will all line up in a successful row. In reality, in having free will we have some control, however, we can only work within God’s framework and counsel or chose to strive outside of it, which will end up as a constant battle as we grapple for control…that isn’t ours to have (Luther’s Works, vol. 15).
Even Jesus had to work within God’s time during His incarnation. In John 7:30 we see this reality:
“So they were seeking to arrest him, but no one laid a hand on him, because his hour had not yet come.”
His time, not yet come, but when it did…wow! The earth shook and the curtain ripped in two, salvation come to us, the inner sanctuary forever opened to His children. His time was worth the wait then, and I’m positive it’s worth the wait now.
Precious sisters, let’s step back, and hand it to Him in prayer.
Lord, Your time is so much better than my impatience. You know the hours, and the days, and the minutes of our lives, and of the lives of those we love. Lord, help us look to you always. Help us trust in Your time, in Your seasons, in Your purpose and plans for our lives. We lay whatever concerns we have on our hearts before you. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.
Discussion questions:
Is time important to you? Are you a punctual person or do you tend toward being a bit late (or really late)?
What areas of life do you most often like to have control?

Heart verse:
I perceived that what God does endures forever
                                                               Ecclesiastes 3:14a