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Job 23:1-9; 16-17
1 Then Job replied: 2 “Even today my complaint is bitter; his hand is heavy in spite of my groaning. 3 If only I knew where to find him; if only I could go to his dwelling! 4 I would state my case before him and fill my mouth with arguments. 5 I would find out what he would answer me, and consider what he would say to me. 6 Would he vigorously oppose me? No, he would not press charges against me. 7 There the upright can establish their innocence before him, and there I would be delivered forever from my judge. 8 “But if I go to the east, he is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find him. 9 When he is at work in the north, I do not see him; when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.

16 God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me. 17 Yet I am not silenced by the darkness, by the thick darkness that covers my face.

Carving by Willard Wigan

Background 1

Job appeals from his friends for the just judgement of God. He wants to have his cause tried quickly. We are much more fortunate than Job. He looks to find God but we know where to find him. He is in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself; and sits upon a seat of mercy, waiting to be gracious to each of us. To Christ,  the sinner may go and there the believer may state their cause before Him, with arguments taken from his promises, His covenant, and His glory. We are nothing more than a patient waiting for death and judgment. This must be our wisdom and duty, and it cannot be without a holy fear and trembling. A passionate wishing for death or judgement is nothing more than our sin and folly, and ill becomes us, as it did Job.

Job knew that the Lord was present every where; but his mind was in such confusion, that he could not get a fixed view of God’s merciful presence and find comfort by stating his case before God. Job’s views were all gloomy. God seemed to stand at a distance, and frown upon him. Yet Job expressed his assurance that he should be brought forth, tried, and approved, for he had obeyed the precepts of God. He had relished and delighted in the truths and commandments of God. Here we should notice that Job was justifying his own actions rather than God. Job felt that he was clear from the charges of his friends, but boldly to assert that, though visited by the hand of God, it was not a punishment of sin. This was an error on his part. Job was also guilty of a second mistake, when he denies that there are dealings of Providence with men in this present life, wherein the injured find redress, and the evil are visited for their sins.

As Job does not once question that his trials are from the hand of God, and that there is no such thing as chance, how does he account for them? The principle on which he views them is, that the hope and reward of the faithful servants of God are only laid up in another life; and he maintains that it is plain to all, that the wicked are not treated according to what they deserve in this life, but often directly the reverse. The first-fruits of the Spirit of grace, pledges a God, who will certainly finish the work which He has began; yet the afflicted believer is not to conclude that all prayer will be in vain, and that they should sink into despair. Job cannot tell God’s intention in afflicting him. Ir may be to produce penitence and prayer in his heart. We are to learn to obey and trust the Lord, even in our trials and to live or die as he pleases.

Items for Discussion

  • What thoughts go through your mind as you pray for God’s grace but do not receive it?
  • How do you justify in your own mind, being witness to the pain and suffering of those who appear not to deserve the harsh judgment?
  • When you are overwhelmed trauma and fear, where do you go for rest and peace?
  • How can we help our friends and family members who might be going through a “Job Experience?”

 

Mark 10:17-31
17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” 20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” 21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. 23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” 28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!” 29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

Background 2

The story of Jesus and the rich man, can be found in all three synoptic gospels. It is notoriously challenging and has resulted in many creative approaches to explaining what seems to most of us a ridiculously extreme demand. From concocting a mythic entrance to Jerusalem that required a camel to unburden itself of all it was carrying to reading it as an intentionally impossible demand to drive us to Christ, interpreters over the centuries have been tempted to tone down this passage.

This means for us that we should read and interpret with care. Keeping this goal in mine, there are two elements of the text that will help us read and interpret it with equal measures of integrity and creativity. The first is in the details. Any author cannot tell us everything and the choices he or she therefore necessarily makes in what is written are only clues to the intention of a particular passage. While there are many revealing details in this passage, we will focus on five.

  1. Jesus is again “on the way” (verse 17). In Mark, this is not merely “a journey”, but rather it represents the road to Jerusalem and the cross. So while Jesus’ demand of the man may seem extreme to us, it is certainly no less than the demand he places on himself, giving not just his wealth but his very life for the world, including this rich man.
  2. Everywhere else in Mark when a person kneels down to ask Jesus urgently and fervently to do something (verse 17), it is in regard to a request for healing, for him or herself or for someone else. Mark, therefore, views this scene as a healing and invites us to do the same. Jesus words are not an impossible demand or Herculean test of faith or extreme requirement. Rather, they are a radical prescription to a deep-seated illness and need.
  3. Jesus looks at him with love (verse 21). He does not treat him as insincere or mock him as self-righteous, but rather loves him. Every interpretation we may offer must therefore take seriously Jesus’ absolute regard and unconditional love for this man.
  4. He is not asked simply to give away his wealth, but to give it to the poor (not the church either, mind you, but the poor) (verse 21). Implied is the importance of sharing in the hardships and need of one’s fellow human beings that is a requirement of life in the kingdom.
  5. The rich man is not the only one who is shocked by Jesus’ pronouncement (verses 22, 26). So also are all those within earshot. Given that wealth was considered a sign of blessing in the first century as well as even today, Jesus words to this man and His later statement about the difficulty the rich will have in entering the kingdom are alarming and difficult to understand.

To summarize, when reading this Scripture from Mark, one needs to limit its scope to an individual who had an “illness” caused by his wealth. Jesus, who took the man at face value over his desire for eternal life, went right to the heart of the matter. This man needed to give up his wealth to heal himself. Mark also shows us that when we set out to help others, those in the greatest need are to be at the top of the priority list.

Items for Discussion

  • We here are rich beyond comparison when considering most in the world. What goes through your own mind as you hear this story about Jesus?
  • In what ways does the financial support given to a church help with Jesus’ commands given to this man?
  • Where can a church/congregation go wrong? 
  • Why do you think this man was given such as harsh commandment to follow? Think healing!
  • Read Verse 29- What do you think Jesus is telling us?
  • Where is Jesus telling us there is more to do than just give money?

Discussion Challenge

  • What is the Christian church’s roll (like Job’s friends) when they witness someone like Job? How does this relate to Mark’s comments?
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