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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Firsthand knowledge

1-5 Job answered God: "I'm convinced: You can do anything and everything.
   Nothing and no one can upset your plans.  You asked, 'Who is this muddying the water, ignorantly confusing the issue, second-guessing my purposes?'  I admit it. I was the one. I babbled on about things far beyond me, made small talk about wonders way over my head.  You told me, 'Listen, and let me do the talking. Let me ask the questions. You give the answers.'  I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears!
(Job 42:1-5)

The book of Job opens with a conversation ABOUT Job between Satan and God.  The book of Job ends with a conversation WITH Job between he and God.  In between these two very telling conversations, there is a story of the ups and downs of Jobs life.  His days have been tragic, to say the least - loss of family, livestock, wealth, and even his health.  His life as he knew it had been turned completely inside out.  In the midst of this, three "comforters" come his way - well intentioned friends - asking him pointed questions aimed at understanding "What did you do to tick God off, Job?"  

The words that open the book describe the condition of Job's heart:  "He was honest inside and out, a man of his word, who was totally devoted to God and hated evil with a passion."  Job prayed regularly for his family, a devout father and faithful spouse.  The heart he exhibited for his children was exemplary - praying for them to be forgiven of their sins - making sacrifices for them at God's altar, "just in case they'd sinned", because he did not want anything to stand between them and God.

Then, almost without warning, the book turns to the conversation between Satan and God.  "One day when the angels came to report to God, Satan, who was the Designated Accuser, came along with them. God singled out Satan and said, 'What have you been up to?' Satan answered God, 'Going here and there, checking things out on earth.'  God said to Satan, 'Have you noticed my friend Job? There's no one quite like him—honest and true to his word, totally devoted to God and hating evil.'"  The idea that Satan is just roaming the earth, going to and fro, taking in all the "action" of man is kind of overwhelming at first.  The idea that God would discuss one of children with Satan is almost more unbelievable!

God's commendation is that Job is honest and true to his word - totally devoted to God and one that hates evil with a passion.  The conversation that ensues is basically accusation after accusation from Satan that Job serves God for the "good stuff" he gets from God and not because he has any "genuine" interest in serving him.  But...God knows better!  He knows the heart of man and he sees the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  He knows the inner make-up of a man and reads him like a book!  Satan is going to be allowed to prove the integrity of Job's heart - although he believes there is no integrity there at all.  Won't he be surprised!

Now, after many heartfelt pleadings of Job about the terror he has endured when all is stripped from him, he speaks these words we take as our text today.  He begins with the statement of facts:  "I am convinced!"  He is at a place deeper than he'd ever been before - his faith, his commitment, and his hope was more firmly convinced of the grace, love and faithfulness of God than he had ever believed possible.  "Nothing can upset your plans!"  Though man may try, though Satan believes he can, nothing can upset the plans of our God.  "Listen and let me do the talking!"  We may try to understand the circumstances through our limited understanding - but God has things about our future so well planned that we could not comprehend the greatness of his plan with our finite minds.  Our part is to listen - let God lay out those plans one by one.  Then move as he gives us direction.  

He concludes with these words:  "I admit I once lived by rumors of you; now I have it all firsthand—from my own eyes and ears!"  Job is no longer riding on the shirt-tails of any other person's faith - he has become firmly cemented in his trust in God.  He had heard about the wonders of God and had believed God to be his keeper, provider, and shelter - now he KNEW God as not only his keeper, provider, and shelter, but as his LORD.  His heart was assured of God's tender care - not because God allowed life to be "cushy" for him, but because God cared enough to allow the tests of his faith to come.  How do we look at the tests of our faith?  Do we interpret them as though God no longer cares - like he has taken his eyes off of us?  Or, like Job, are we at the place where we know with an assurance that God wants us to know him as our own - no longer relying on the things we "hear" about God, but experiencing those truths in reality in our lives?

Firsthand knowledge is God's goal in the test - it is never that we would be destroyed!  He wants us to know him for who he is and serve him out of intimate, firsthand knowledge of his love, grace, and tender mercies.  Today is an opportunity for us to have a conversation WITH God - not ABOUT God.  Open up to him and see what he unfolds to you.