Stop! (Elihu, Part 2)

Okay, I am liking this kid more and more as he gets wound up and gets more comfortable with giving Job & Co. a piece of his mind . . . and a vision of God.

Yesterday, I pondered Elihu’s exhortation to Job to “remember to extol” the works of God. And this morning, I’m hovering over what I think has got to be a precursor to remembering. Stopping.

“Hear this, O Job; stop and consider the wondrous works of God.”

(Job 37:14)

I wonder if at least part of the reason we fail to break the strongholds our sufferings and trials can so often have on us; the reason we lose sight of God in the storm; the reason we’re tempted to question God, or blame God, for the hard stuff — I wonder if the reason we fail to remember to extol God is because we forget to stop and consider God.

We’re so busy trying to keep things afloat, we’re so distracted with being distracted, we’re so caught up with the frantic pace of a technology enabled life, that we never cease and desist. We don’t make time to be still and know that He is God (Ps. 46:10). We don’t stop moving and just meditate. We don’t stop producing in order to just ponder. We don’t stop checking off the items on our to-do lists and make the time to check in with the Lord. We just don’t stop.

O, maybe we stop moving physically once in awhile. But then, what do we fill our minds with? Which electronic device of choice occupies the quiet time? Though our body may be still our mind is still racing. Either with this game, or getting caught up on that social media platform. Or maybe we’re listening to our favorite podcast, or watching our favorite show. In our age, even when we’re still, how often do we really stop?

But the kid says to Job, “Job, take a breath!” Stop, really stop, and consider.

Stand still for a moment and think. Really think. Think hard. Think diligently. Pause for the purpose of being discerning. Rest and reflect on the God you know, and the God who knows you. Consider how great is your God. Think deeply on the wonders of your God. Remind yourself of the ways of your God.

Meditate on the wonders of His hand in the life around you, the ever visible creation. And take time to replay the grace-sourced evidences of the hand of the Almighty in your own life, an ever loved new creation (2Cor. 5:17) in His Son.

Know afresh that He is forever faithful. That He really is all powerful. That He is exceedingly merciful. That He is, by His nature, unchangeable — the same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8). And that, with the Spirit in us, especially when the Word is before us, He is always available (Ps. 139:7).

We just need to stop. Stop and consider.

May not answer all the why’s of our journey when the going gets tough. But it will certainly help us to remember that there is One who goes with us in the journey, who is in us and with us.

If God is for us, who can be against us? . . . in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.

(Romans 8:31b, 37 ESV)

We just need to stop every so often. Probably more often than we do.

By His grace. For His glory.

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Remember to Extol His Work!

I’ve done enough reading to be okay with the fact that I don’t know quite how to peg Elihu, commentators varying among themselves as to how to understand his intervention in the book of Job.

Elihu, the young, upstart peanut-gallery, who somehow has been able to listen in on Job’s debate with his friends. Elihu, the only guy in the book who bears a Hebrew name. The guy who eventually hits the wall and has to interject his two-cents-worth when Job and the three amigos are done jawing back and forth. Elihu, the guy who, for me, seems to get what’s going on more than the other three comforters, but . . . doesn’t totally get what’s going on.

And I guess that’s in line with the overall purpose of the book of Job. Not about providing answers as to the why of Job’s suffering, but providing focus on the Who of Job’s situation and His nature.

Furthermore, when God eventually tells Job to pray for his detractors, Elihu isn’t mentioned. In fact, God doesn’t acknowledge Elihu at all in the epilogue of the book. How come? I don’t know. Maybe it’s because while the kid didn’t know everything, he was closer on some things. Maybe because, if nothing else, Elihu did pretty well as the “opener” for God’s revelation of Himself to Job.

For, as I continue to read Elihu’s six chapters of uninterrupted discourse this morning, I do think I see him shifting the conversation in the right direction–away from Job’s plight and towards God’s person. Away from what’s happening on earth and towards Who reigns in heaven. And something in Elihu’s words resonates as a solid piece of advice to heed, if not as a command to obey, for how to endure in situations that are hard, have no end in sight, and make no sense.

“Behold, God is exalted in His power; who is a teacher like Him? Who has prescribed for Him His way, or who can say, ‘You have done wrong’?
Remember to extol His work, of which men have sung. All mankind has looked on it; man beholds it from afar. Behold, God is great, and we know Him not; the number of His years is unsearchable.”

(Job 36:22-26 ESV)

Remember to extol His work.

When you don’t know what God’s doing, don’t forget to magnify what you do know God has done. Or said a little differently: let not your circumstance inform your opinion of God, but let your knowledge of God provide the context and foundation for working through your situation.

Behold, says Elihu, God is exalted in power. Behold, God is great.

Behold what God has made known of Himself, what all mankind can look upon and know of God and, for many, have sung about through the ages.

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For His invisible attributes, namely, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made.

(Romans 1:19-20 ESV)

And in these last days God has spoken to us by His Son (Heb. 1:1-3). Revealing even more of His wondrous works through the finished work of the cross, the redemption of sinners saved by grace, and the grace of taking those who once were far off and adopting them as family.

Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed on us, that we should be called children of God!

(1John 3:1 NKJV)

Remember to extol His work. When you’re getting hammered by life’s circumstance. When you’re feeling like you’re going down for the third time. When nothing is making sense. Remember to magnify what you do know He has done.

Look around and be reminded of His power in creation. Look back and know again His love through the cross. Look in and don’t forget His provision through the indwelling Spirit. And then, look up, . . . . look waaaay up! . . . and behold your God exalted in power . . . behold your God arrayed in greatness . . . behold Your God who makes Himself known by His Son through the Spirit.

And then sing. Even in the makes no sense, I don’t have answers, situations of life, sing of all you do know.

O Lord, my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder
Thy power throughout the universe displayed

And when I think of God, His Son not sparing
Sent Him to die, I scarce can take it in
That on the Cross, my burden gladly bearing
He bled and died to take away my sin

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee
How great Thou art, how great Thou art

Haven’t got Elihu totally figured out, but I think the kid’s on to something.

Because of grace. For God’s glory.

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Who Is A God Like Our God?

You don’t see it every time, but there’s a pattern in the prophets that’s unmistakable. Amidst the prophets’ warning of judgment there is the promise of reconciliation. Though God, in a sense, was “done” with His people after there persistent, stiff-necked determination towards idolatry and rebellion, and would demand the wages of their sin, yet God was not “done” with His people. Though there would be consequences for their self-determination, there too would be assurances of their national restoration.

And that, because of grace.

Chewing on Micah’s closing words and awash in the grace of God. Whispering to myself this morning the prophets words, “Who is a God like You?”

Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over transgression for the remnant of His inheritance? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in steadfast love. He will again have compassion on us; He will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will show faithfulness to Jacob and steadfast love to Abraham, as You have sworn to our fathers from the days of old.

(Micah 7:18-20 ESV)

What does our God delight in? He delights in steadfast love. He is pumped by showing mercy. Faithful love, unchanging love — that brings pleasure to our God.

And so, He looks upon a people who, for the most part, had rejected Him, and He still sees within them a remnant of His inheritance. A remnant to be contended for. A remnant to be rescued. A remnant, to be sure, who needed their iniquity pardoned and the transgressions passed over, but a remnant nevertheless. Because that’s what steadfast love is all about. And God delights in steadfast love! Who is a God like our God?

No doubt, a holy God, and a just God, is a God who must divinely bristle at sin and be angered by iniquity. But our steadfast love God does not retain His anger forever. He will again show compassion. He will always be faithful to His promise. That’s the nature of our God. Who is a God like our God?

But take your righteous judgment and your remnant inheritance; take your ebbing anger and your overriding compassion; take your pardoning iniquity and your passing over transgressions; and, in a sense, it pales somewhat when held up against the implications of “treading our iniquities underfoot” and “casting all our sins into the depths of the sea.” Because our God is not an arbitrary God.

By His very nature, a holy and just God, can’t just ignore sin. Though God writes all the rules, His rules cannot violate who He is. Thus, sin cannot just be ignored. It cannot just be given a pass, even for steadfast love’s sake. It must be dealt with. The wages must be rendered. The penalty must be borne.

So for God to be able to tread iniquities underfoot, for Him to justly cast sins into the depths of the sea and still be holy, holy, holy, iniquity and sin had to be dealt with. Sin and iniquity had to be atoned for if it is going to be disposed of.

Cue the cross. Hear again the Victor’s cry, “It is finished!” Behold the Man. Enter the Child born to save His people from their sins. Who is a God like our God?

He delights in steadfast love. So how pleased was our God on that first Christmas Eve when His love was manifest in a manger? Pretty pleased, I’m thinking!

Who is a God like our God? No god!

Praise God!

For His steadfast love and His wondrous grace.

For He is worthy and glory is due forever.

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Caught Up, Come Down

Reading in Revelation 12 this morning. A lot going on. Great signs in heaven. An impressive looking woman juxtaposed against a hideous looking dragon. War in heaven. The archangel, Michael, and his angels versus the deceiver of the world, that ancient serpent, and his angels. And at the center of it all, a baby.

But not just any baby. It’s the baby. The “unto us a Child is born” baby.

The baby we see, at this time of year, in the manger. The “silent night “baby. The “all is calm, all is bright” baby. But, to read Revelation 12, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of sleeping going on, much less in “heavenly peace.” Rather, John sees a “waiting to be devoured by the great dragon” baby.

O the many, hidden dynamics of the Savior’s birth. We look on a child “asleep on the hay” and long for peace on earth. But, if I’m picking up what John’s laying down, Bethlehem’s birth unleashed an upheaval in heaven.

And what’s captured my meditation this morning is the “catching up” and the “coming down.”

And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male Child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her Child was caught up to God and to His throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness . . . And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come . . . “

(Revelation 12:4b-6a, 10 ESV)

The Child was caught up to God and His throne. And His kingdom came down. The One who will one day rule all the nations with a rod of iron has gone away, but His salvation has come. He is in heaven. But His power and authority are made manifest on earth.

Joy to the world! the Saviour reigns
Let men their songs employ

We live in that in between time. Between His first coming and His second. Having ascended, we wait for His glorious appearing. Because He was caught up, however, His kingdom has come down.

Though He went to heaven, His rule has been established on earth — in the hearts of a redeemed people. Though He stands now at the throne of God, yet His power is made manifest on earth — through His sending of another Helper, the Third Person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit.

And while the dragon, the accuser of the brothers and sisters, was also thrown down to the earth, the devil’s time is short! His forever defeat certain.

Victory is ours because “the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come.”

The Child was caught up. His kingdom has come down.

O come let us adore Him!

Because of grace. For His glory.

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All In

He was leaving the world, but they weren’t. He was going back to heaven, they would have to gut it out on earth. He was returning to His Father, they would now be clearly in the crosshairs of the enemy. He would again be adored by a heavenly host, they would be hated by the world. And so, on the night He was betrayed, after washing their feet, promising them He’d return for them, and pledging to them the indwelling of the Holy Spirit after His departure, Jesus prayed for His own.

And even as His work on earth was about to come to an end, the Son of God pledged to be all in.

“Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate Myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.” ~ Jesus

(John 17:17-19 ESV)

The work was soon to be finished, but Jesus wasn’t about to retire. The earth assignment, and all its humiliation and hardship would soon be over, but Jesus wasn’t returning to heaven to kick back and put up His feet for some well deserved R&R. Nope, not the way it was going to work. “For their sake,” Jesus said as He anticipated His departure, “I consecrate Myself.”

To be sure, in the immediate sense Jesus was setting Himself apart as the once for all sacrifice for sin. Dedicating Himself for the great work of redemption and reconciliation that would be accomplished through the cross. The Son of God separating Himself to fill the role of Lamb of God come to take away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29). He would consecrate Himself that they might be saved.

But Jesus would also consecrate Himself that they might be sanctified. He would sanctify Himself that they might be consecrated. He who was already holy, holy, holy would dedicate Himself to their holiness–a work, He knew, which would be a work in progress. Yet, kick-started through the righteousness that would be credited to their account because of faith (Rom. 3:21-22).

Jesus was all in. Pledging Himself for their purification. Making Himself eternally available, through the Holy Spirit, for their mission. Teaching them all they would need to know, and that through the truth. Having given them God’s word (17:14), He would sanctify them through God’s word. And that too, through the Holy Spirit, the One who would lead them into all truth (16:13).

And for their sake I consecrate Myself.

All in.

Having left this world, but promising never to leave or forsake them (Heb. 13:5b). No longer walking this planet, but living in His people through the Spirit. No longer praying for us from an upper room, but, even now, still interceding for us at the right hand of the Father in heaven (Rom. 8:34).

All in. The same yesterday, today, and forever (Heb. 13:8).

O what a Savior! O come lest us adore Him!

By His grace. For His glory.

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The Same but Different

This is the morning in my reading plan where I, perhaps, feel most as if I’m entering an inner-sanctum. John 17 truly being the place where you stand on holy ground as the Son lifts up His eyes to heaven and speaks to the Father. That secret place we’re allowed in to as we eavesdrop on our great High Priest at our great God’s right hand interceding for the saints (Heb. 7:25).

Just the first five verses this morning. But more than enough for a meal. Almost too much to chew on.

When Jesus had spoken these words, He lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify You, since You have given Him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom You have given Him. And this is eternal life, that they know You the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. I glorified You on earth, having accomplished the work that You gave Me to do.”

(John 17:1-4 ESV)

Where to start?

The glory of the Son integrally intertwined with the glory of the Father. To glorify One would be to glorify the Other. The glory they both share in because of the finished work of redemption ordained of the Father and accomplished by the Son.

Or, the mind-blowing reality that those who are Christ’s have been selected by divine determination, hand-picked of the Father, and given to the Son — yet true, too, that eternal life is promised for “whoever believes in Him” (Jn. 3:16).

What about Jesus’s definition of eternal life? To be forever blessed is for mortal man to know their immortal Creator. That knowing the only true God, known fully and perfectly through Jesus the Messiah, is what life, and life to the full, is really about–whether in heaven or on earth.

But one thing in particular is captivating my head and my heart. Jesus’s glorification after His time on earth. And how it would be the same but different.

“And now, Father, glorify Me in Your own presence with the glory that I had with You before the world existed.

(John 17:5 ESV)

Our focus at this time of year is on a baby born in a manager. But our wonder is fueled by Immanuel, God with Us. The Incarnate Deity. The fullness of God, yet in bodily form.

Though the Son has ever been One with the Father and the Spirit, present before the world began, with manifest glory the likes of which angels could barely look upon, yet, in order to do the Father’s will, He did not consider that manifest glory something to be held on to. “He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself.” Taking the form of servant. Born in the likeness of men. Becoming obedient to death–even death on a cross (Php. 2:6-8). The glory veiled. But not forever.

“And now, Father, glorify Me in Your own presence with the glory that I had with You before the world existed.”

Jesus, anticipating the completion of the work of redemption, looked forward to His return to the Father. To again be in God’s own presence. To again bear the glory He had borne since eternity past. He looked forward to that state when it would be the same as it was before.

But it wouldn’t be exactly the same. It would be different, wouldn’t it?

He would be embodied. The human form he took upon Himself the same human form that ascended into heaven. The human form that will be seen when He returns again “in the same way as you saw Him go into heaven” (Act 1:9-11).

Embodied as “the firstfruits” of all those who will know bodily resurrection from the dead (1Cor. 15:20-23). The Son being the first to model the heavenly body–raised imperishable, raised in glory, raised in power, raised a supernatural body. So that “just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the Man of heaven” (1Cor. 15:42-44, 49).

A body emitting majestic glory, the teaser of which was witnessed by Peter, James, and John on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:1-2, 1Pet. 1:16-18).

Jesus will indeed be glorified with the same glory that was His, but different.

Different too in that, while He will bear again the fullness of the glory as of the Son, His since before the world existed, because of His coming to earth that glory will also be known through new and forever facets. The glory of the Lion of the tribe of Judah. The glory of the Root of David. The glory of the Conqueror of sin and death. And the glory manifest as a Lamb, standing amidst the throne of God, as though it had been slain (Rev. 5:5-6). The glory of Christ, in all it’s multi-faceted majestic display, the same but different.

O’ what a Savior! O’ what boundless love! O’ what face-planting, praise-shouting glory will we behold when we behold the Lamb?!?

Might we see just a glimpse of it even now, even as we prepare to celebrate God come in flesh.

By His grace. For His glory.

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In Plain Language

Jesus laid a lot on the disciples that last night after supper. “Let not your hearts be troubled,” He said to them (Jn. 14:1), knowing that over the next several hours troubling turns of events would pile one upon another until they eventually stood at the foot of a Roman cross. Troubling turns of events that would end with them looking upon the crucified Christ, hearing Him declare, “It is finished,” as He bowed His head and gave up His spirit (Jn. 19:30).

But while the work of redemption was finished, Jesus was not. Though for a time they would be sorrowful, their sorrow would turn into joy (Jn. 16:20). He would rise again, proving that He had vanquished sin and death through the power of an indestructible life. And so, they would see Him three days later. They would touch Him, they would eat with Him, they would again be taught by Him. Once more, they would be with Him.

But only for a short while. Though they would have Him again, they would lose Him again. And that, He said, would actually be to their advantage.

“But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you. But now I am going to Him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you.”

(John 16:4-7 ESV)

Wrapping up John 16 this morning and chewing on one of the advantages of the Helper. One of the ways life for the disciples was going to be better through the sending of the Parakletos — the Advocate, the Comforter, the Helper. How Jesus’ departure and the Holy Spirit’s arrival was going to profit His follower’s journey.

“I have said these things to you in figures of speech. The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech but will tell you plainly about the Father.” ~ Jesus

(John 16:25 ESV)

Plain language. Along with bearing witness concerning the Son (15:26); beyond convicting the world of sin and righteousness and judgment (16:8); in addition to guiding us into all truth (16:13); the One who “dwells with you and will be in you” (14:17b), the Holy Spirit, makes known the Father–and that, in plain language.

Openly, freely, with unreserved speech, in a language we somehow can understand, the Third Person of the Godhead reveals mysteries concerning the Father, through the Son, which, apart from the Spirit, would be indiscernible to the mortal mind. Though Jesus would be physically gone, yet He would continue to speak. Through the Holy Spirit. And that, in plain language.

For those of us who have been in the kingdom for awhile; who have become pretty familiar with the old, old, story; who know a thing or two about the ways of heaven and earth, I wonder if we take for granted that whatever we’ve picked up, it’s because He has laid it down. That whatever we have seen, is due only to Him opening our eyes. That whatever we have taken in, has been possible because He has chosen to reveal it.

That we might tend to forget that, when we open our Bibles, the Helper engages. Bringing to light the Scriptures. Making known the Father. Explaining the mysteries. Assuring our hearts that faith really is the substance of things hoped for. All in plain language.

Whatever we get about the Father, the Son, and the kingdom to come, it’s because of the Spirit who is present now. Not because of our intellect, but His illumination. Not through our reasoning, but His revelation.

And that, dear brother and sister, is to our advantage. Amen?

Plain language. The language of heaven translated for earth-dwellers. And that, by the Holy Spirit who dwells with us and in us. May it not be something taken for granted but, instead, a continuing source of awe.

Another reminder of His amazing grace! Another reason to give Him all the glory!

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