by Mike Mason
The Gospel According to Job
"Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I will depart."
Job knew one of the great secrets of faith: the believer in God has no worldly rights. The true believer is someone who has abdicated all rights, freely accepting the status of a slave and no loner laying claim to any earthly chattel, whether it be 'houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields' (Matt.12.29). These are precisely the sort of things Job has just lost, and yet his initial response to their loss is not bitter complaint, nor even mere acquiescence, but adoration.
In many places in the world today we see people fighting and lobbying under the banner of Christianity for all sorts of human rights and freedoms, both personal and political. To what extent the Bible actually recognizes such rights is a complex question. But in terms of individual spirituality, at least, the mature Christian should know that he has no right even to the shirt on his back or to his next meal, let alone the right to vote, to have a pension, to enjoy good health, or to get eight hours of sleep every night. Strictly speaking the servant of Christ does not even have the right to his own private thoughts and feelings, be they good, bad or indifferent. As the Lord pointedly put it to a sulking Jonah, 'Have you any right to be angry?' (4.4).
The fact is, Christians have abdicated one kingdom in favor of another. They have released their hold on this world's elaborate system of amenities and expectations, in order to embrace something infinitely higher. In practice this letting go can be a delicate process, for as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven we certainly do have rights, but what we do not have is worldly rights. 'were you a slave when you were called? Don't let it trouble you,' advises Paul - though at the same time he hastens to add, 'I you can gain your freedom, do so' (1 Cor. 7.21). Worldly freedom, in other words, may be a good thing for the Christian, but it is not an entitlement. The children of God have the Lord's own promise that 'I will pay you whatever is right' (Matt. 20.4); yet what is right is to be calculated not in earthly terms but in heavenly. As Jesus taught, 'Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple' (Luke 14.33).
For a Christian to insist on having worldly rights and comforts is, plainly and simply, to be a grumbler. It is to be like the Israelites in the desert when they were continually murmuring against God. How often to we as believers waste precious time and energy trying to 'claim' things that, as those whose lot in this life is nothing more than to share the cross of Christ, we have no right to claim? The tragedy is that meanwhile we neglect to claim the spiritual rights that are properly ours. In our pursuit of worldly contentment, we forfeit spiritual joy and peace.
Already we have made the point that God not only loves believers, He likes them. But what about our feelings toward Him? Are we genuinely fond of the Lord? Do we like the way He does things? Do we approve of His methods of child-rearing? Or do we secretly resent Him whenever life does not go our way? Can we enjoy our God, and yet not enjoy the life He has given us, not bless our own unique incarnation in all its fantastic variety and unpredictability?
We Christians are people who know in our bones that we never had any right to be created in the first place, let alone redeemed. We know we have no more inherent title to life and its goodness than a dead man has. For us the coffin lid has already been nailed shut on all the natural joys and privileges that earth can offer. Knowing this, we are set free to bless the Lord in all circumstances, whether we find ourselves clothed or naked.
When Adam discovered he was naked, he hid from the Lord. But when Job was faced with his nakedness, he worshiped, and this is what sets the fallen man apart from the redeemed man. Even Christ, after all, when He came into the world, came naked. And He died naked too. The Gospels plainly state that soldiers divided Jesus' garments among them at the foot of the cross, including His undergarment. The pictures do not usually show this; it is almost as though the sight of God's nakedness would be somehow more appalling than His death. But in the full Biblical revelation it is clear that God became not only man, but man naked and helpless, and that both at the beginning and the end of the Lord's earthly life His bare flesh had to be wrapped in rags like that of any other poor wretch.
this week's gratitude list
(#s 2116 - 2140)
the kind of comfort that can only be found in God's Word
these words~ "When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: "Death has been swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law." (1 Cor 15.54-56)
and these words~ "But God will redeem my life from the grave; he will surely take me to himself. Selah" (Psalm 49.15)
even more words~ "He hath swallowed up death for ever; and the Lord Jehovah will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the reproach of his people will he take away from off all the earth: for Jehovah hath spoken it." (Is 25.8)
slumber parties snuggles on the bathroom floor so they can breath the sorta cool, moist air
dr. friends who make housecalls and know just which hole in the wall place to look to find medicines that help
little girls with mostly restored health
ladies' Bible study on Saturday
chicken quesadillas for Sunday lunch
little boy falling asleep while reading his book
graded papers all caught up
oldest boy working as my pancake flipper
the book of Job
the opportunity, yet once again, to walk slowly and meditatively with Job
cold green apples
little girl who wants a bunny so bad she is willing to drive her parents crazy asking
trying to help math students see that fractions really can be learner friendly
student smiles and hugs
little girl stumbling out of bed after her nap, hair all mussed up, informing me that now was not the time to hug because the kids were home... now was the time to play
friendly debates with my guy
learning what it means to walk in another's shows
catching an obscure local cultural cue... in another language... and then being able to serve and encourage
little girls dressed up in costume clothes, snuggled in bed and talking with their daddy
daily bread ~ when so many around me don't...
one final passage of beautiful Bible words... for this week, at least~ "Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, 'Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." He who was seated on the throne said, 'I am making everything new!' Then he said, 'Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.' He said to me: 'It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life. He who overcomes will inherit all this, and I will be his God and he will be my son.'"