Watching Daily At Wisdom's Gates

A Yorkshireman's take on life, death, and eternity

Month: August, 2016

Covenant

I have made a covenant with my eyes; how then could I gaze upon a virgin?
Job 31 : 1

If Proverbs 31 is about the ideal woman; Job 31 is the male equivalent. The whole chapter is well worth a read. If you are a man it will set a standard for integrity; and if you’re a woman it will show you what sort of man you should marry.

Job talks about his integrity in business, relationships, employment, welfare, money, worship; in his attitudes. And in this first verse he talks about his attitude to women. He refused to lust after women.

Not only did Job refuse to lust after women, but he made a covenant with his eyes. He made a solemn promise to himself to not even entertain the thought of inappropriate conduct towards a woman. If we don’t resolve to resist temptation, we will never withstand it at all.

People often want to know how far they can go with women before marriage. Job didn’t even want to entertain the thought. He was married, but I’m sure his principles were the same before and after his marriage.

What about us? If we want to be the kind of men that parents would want their daughter to bring home we should do as Job did. The same applies for women in reverse, although because women aren’t as visual as men perhaps it isn’t so much of an issue for them.

“God Almighty, I covenant to not look at a (wo)man with lustful intent. Forgive me for those times that I have, and please change me by your Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name, amen”

Trust

In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me?
Psalm 56:4

Is God’s word your praise? Is it your meditation day and night? Or do you doubt it? David, and countless others through history have come to find great strength in God’s word.

Through God’s word we discover that God is trustworthy. All his promises have, or will come true. He promised David the kingdom when all seemed hopeless. He promised a son of David would reign forever, and Jesus came, descended from David.

If God is trustworthy, if he keeps his promises, then we do not need to be afraid, because he will look after us. In fact, fear of anything other than God is sinful. Fear is born of doubt that God is the only one we need to fear. If we go through life afraid of difficult circumstances, we will be miserable. But if we trust God to keep us, we will be strong in the midst of our weaknesses.

David had been seized by his enemies the Philistines. But he wasn’t afraid because God had promised him the kingdom so he trusted in God’s word. If God has promised a lifetime of service to you, you will fulfil all he has planned. If Christ returns or death takes us first, nothing will separate us from his love.

“Lord God, I praise your word, I trust in you; I shall not be afraid. What can flesh do to me when you are on my side? You will keep me in your love until you call me home to glory, and I praise you for it, amen”

Androgynous gods

Cultural confusion around gender, sexuality and deity is reflected in a display of Greek gods in the Tate Liverpool. Statues of famous Greek God’s were labeled as androgynous, or as we might say nowadays, gender fluid.

But as a US news article provocatively asked recently, “Is God transgender?” After all, God made humanity in his image and likeness, and we are male *and* female. We sometimes say, “he’s the spitting image of his dad” or “she’s just like her father”.

Just because we still bear something of God’s image and likeness, doesn’t mean to say he shares in our brokenness.  We’re like a broken mirror, imperfectly reflecting something of God in our acts of charity and suchlike, always splintered by selfish motives.

But then Jesus came, the image of the invisible God. The Old Testament tells us that God is not a man, he doesn’t have gender or sexuality like us. He might have Fatherly and even womanly characteristics in his provision and nurturing of us, but he isn’t made in our image, it’s the other way round.

 But the New Testament says that God became a man to restore the broken pieces of our lives. Jesus is 100% God and became 100% man, to bring mankind back to God. He was tempted in every way just as we are, yet was without sin. So he was tempted to view God in the wrong way, as we are, but he never gave in to the temptation.

PS This study has raised loads of questions and thoughts for me, which I’ll try and address in future posts. If it has for you too, please let me know and I’ll try and answer you.

Sustainance

Cast your burden upon the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved.
Psalm 55 : 22

I think a lot of people have an image of religious people as like swans on a lake, unflappably sailing through life like a dream, without a care in the world. In reality all of us are to a greater or lesser extent burdened by cares, woes and difficult cicumstances in life. Religion is often described as a crutch, and that might be a good analogy: failing to deal with our burdens, it simply supports us to hobble through life.

But God doesn’t offer religion to us, he offers a relationship with himself. He doesn’t offer support so much as salvation from the burden that would sink us down into the quicksand of hell. What can we do with our burdens? Take them to the Lord!

Maybe we’ve got a lot of things that concern us, family, friends and health. Maybe horrible people are making our lives woeful. Maybe work or home life is miserable and stressful. But God calls us to cast our burdens on him. He’s big enough to deal with them. And he will sustain us.

Maybe when we come to God, circumstances don’t get better. They didn’t for Job. But God will sustain us through them. He won’t let us get weighed down with worries. He encourages us to trust in him and his righteousness granted to us, so that we can stand strong in the evil day.

“Oh Lord God, I cast my burdens on you and ask you to sustain me. Help me to stand strong and righteous in you and what you have done for me in Christ. In his name, amen”

Riches

For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.
Luke 18:25

Imagine if a local politician walked into your church. You’d be shaking his hand, showing him the best seat, making sure he was comfortable and refreshed. All the while you were showing this favoritism you’d be thinking what a great addition to the church he’d make.

But when Jesus met the rich ruler, he turned him away sad, with the sobering words of our text. It goes against everything we would expect. We assume that if someone is well off it’s because they are blessed by God. Whilst there may be some truth to that, it doesn’t mean to say God thinks any more highly of them.

There’s a cheesy saying that nonetheless has a true meaning to it: the ground is level at the foot of the cross. Riches can’t buy us closer access to Jesus, any more than poverty gives us a passport for the kingdom of God. God doesn’t show favoritism.

Jesus goes on to say that what is impossible with man is possible with God. So rich people can get saved, but it’s not very often. Usually poor people are more aware of their spiritual poverty as well, and more likely to come to Christ for spiritual riches.

“Heavenly Father, help me be poor in spirit so that I can inherit your kingdom. Forgive me for the times I idolise wealth, but thank you that nothing is impossible with you. In Jesus’ name, amen”

Gold

But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold
Job 23:10

Job might have lost everything except his life, and his rather unhelpful wife and friends, but he never lost his faith in God. His “Job’s comforters” accused him of wickedness and made out he needed to repent but he always held on to his integrity. God might have felt far away but he never gave up trusting him.

Job might not have known much about why he went through, but he knew that God knew his way. Even when we can’t see the way we take, God does and he will keep us safe. If we walk in integrity and faith, we need not be afraid.

One thing Job did work out was that he was going through a trial. He knew he was innocent, but he knew he had to go though this. Job was confident that he would be acquitted. Even more, he believed he would come our stronger and purer, like gold that’s been refined.

“God, please help me have the integrity and trust of Job. Help me in the dark times of my life to never lose faith in you. Thank you that in those times you’re refining me to be like gold. In Jesus’ name, amen”

Wickedness

How often is it that the lamp of the wicked is put out? That their calamity comes upon them? That God distributes pains in his anger?
Job 21:17

Job’s friends were early proponents of the “prosperity gospel”. This is the idea that if you worship God you will be healthy, wealthy and happy. If you’re not prosperous, it is implied, you’re wicked.

But Job challanged them to observe the falsehood of their beliefs. Far from being afflicted, the wicked tend to have an easy time of it. It’s not often that their lamp is put out, or calamity comes upon them, or God pains them in his anger.

If for this life only we had hope in the justice of God, we would be more than all people to be pitied. But everyone yearns for justice, and yearnings are there to be met, as CS Lewis said. Desires for food, sex, and companionship are there to be met. But if we have desires that can’t be met in this world, we can only conclude that we were made for another world. Desires for heaven, justice and the love of God strongly hint at eternity for us.

“God, help me be realistic about the prosperity of the wicked and the afflictions of the righteous. Forgive me if I ever judged Christians for going through a hard time. Thank you that you do provide all I need, in Jesus’ name, amen”

Redeemer

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth
Job 19:25

Job may have been a righteous, godly man of integrity, but he knew he still needed a Redeemer. Somehow he knew something of Jesus, who he’d never met but that he trusted was alive. He trusted that in the end he would stand upon the earth.

We may not have seen Jesus either. But we can trust that he’s alive. He may have died to redeem us but he rose again on the third day. And he has promised to return to judge the world and to call his people home, to be with him in heaven.

When we suffer, like Job did, it’s a great comfort to know that our redeemer lives. He cares for us and will free us from all suffering. We will see him face to face. He will redeem us from the power of the world, the flesh and the devil.

“My God and redeemer, thank you that you live and will redeem me from this world of woe. Forgive me of all the things in my life you need to redeem me from. Please help me change by your Spirit, in Jesus’ name, amen “

Advocacy

“Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven, and he who testifies for me is on high.”
Job 16 : 19

The book of Job reads like a poetic courtroom drama. Job is on trial for sinfulness, as his accusers claim he can’t suffer like he does without deserving it. The prosecution include his wife who tells him to curse God and die, his three “friends” who are supposed to be comforting him, and later on a young man as well.

In this verse however we get a hint of a defence: an advocate and witness on high, before God himself, the judge. Job was probably a contemporary of Abraham, so how he had a hint of Jesus in the throne room of heaven is unclear. God must have revealed something of himself to Job, that there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

But what a comfort this truth must have been to Job, and has been to countless believers ever since. We are never alone, we always have a representative in heaven who is Jesus. God, the one who judges us is also the one who can justify us.

By faith in God, you can have Jesus as your witness as well. Though we deserve God’s condemnation, Jesus says of his people “this one/that one belongs to me”. We can be acquitted, justified and glorified with God on high.

“God on high, thank you that I gave an advocate with you, the Lord Jesus Christ. May you find me innocent in him, and help me to trust in you to justify me. For your glory, amen”

Hope

Though he slay me, I will hope in him; yet I will argue my ways to his face.
Job 13:15

Job’s attitude is unfathomable to a worldly mind, and even to a believer it’s pretty amazing. He had lost everything: his children, his wealth, his health and his happiness. His wife told him to curse God and die and his friends said he must be evil to be suffering so much at the hands of God.

In reality, Job was a man of great integrity. Not only did he refuse to curse God and die, but he continued to worship him. And he vehemently protested his innocence to his accusatory “comforters”.

In this verse, even if Job was to be killed by God, he would still put his hope in Him. His attitude is incomprehensible to the world, and even believers wonder whether we would have the same attitude. So what was the secret of Job’s faith?

Job was a great believer in the love and justice of God. Even though he was suffering so much at his hands, he had faith that he would get a fair hearing after death. Even if God was to kill him, Job trusted that he would be able to argue his case to God face to face.

In reality, if we don’t have faith in God, we have no real hope of justice in this life or the next. Only God can make the wrongs right. Only the eternity that is to come can provide the justification or condemnation that will be the end of mankind after the judgement.

“God, thank you that you love me and that you are just. I trust that you will vindicate me at the end. I know that not even death can separate me from your love. Help me to always rely on you for justification in Jesus’ name, amen”