The Friendship of God

O’ for the good old days! That’s all Job wanted. Not just any “old days” but the “good” old days. You know, those days when the kids flocked to him, the young people deferred to him, and the older people stood and revered him. Those days when princes and nobles quieted themselves so they could hear what Job had to say. The days when those in need appealed to him, and the unrighteous feared him. Those days when he was the one meeting needs, being eyes to the blind and feet to the lame.Those days when he was the “big kahuna.” Days when he spoke and people listened. Days when he commanded and others obeyed. How he longed for those days when he was friends with God.

And Job again took up his discourse, and said: “Oh, that I were as in the months of old, as in the days when God watched over me, when His lamp shone upon my head, and by His light I walked through darkness, as I was in my prime, when the friendship of God was upon my tent . . . ”   (Job 29:1-4 ESV)

Job 29 is fascinating. Who can’t connect with it? Who can’t relate to wanting better times when current times are kind of stormy. Who hasn’t looked back and thought, “If I could only go there again?” But what really has me thinking is how those memories of the past can be a sort of torture if we equate them with God’s favor.

If good times, as Job seems to be thinking, are the measure of God “watching over us” or the indicator of the strength of the “friendship of God,” then when times are bad it’s easy to feel forgotten and forsaken. Memories of better times, instead of reminding us of God’s goodness, instead end up sparking endless mind games. “What did I do to deserve this? What did I do wrong?” Or, as in Job’s case, “I haven’t done anything to deserve this, therefore God’s sense of justness must be out of whack somehow.”

But what if the storms, the trials, the testings are all part of friendship with God? I read this in Revelation this morning:

Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline . . . (Revelation 3:19a ESV)

Jesus, the Head of the Church, the One who walks among the lampstands of the local churches says not only to the lukewarm church, but to all churches, if I love you I’ll call you to account, to prod and correct and guide you so that you’ll live at your best (MSG). So that you’ll live at your best, for the glory of my Name. And in the reproof there is the invitation, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20). Communion offered. Intimate fellowship available. All through reproof. All in times of testing and training.

Job would be reproved. Job would be trained. Job apparently never would know the why of what happened to him. But he would know the voice of God. And would experience again the tangible favor of God. But Job was NEVER NOT A FRIEND of God.

Sometimes friendships can be painful, but a “friend loves at all times” (Prov. 17:7) and “faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27:6).

Not faulting anyone for longing for the better times. But to equate God’s favor with the mountain tops and question His friendship in the valleys is to reduce God to a barometer of our behavior . . . a scale for measuring our righteousness . . . a response to our good works. But what if God, in His divine purposes for His glory alone, loves us so much He allows the tough times so that we might know His friendship to greater depths? If we really believe that then we could really say,

“The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”  ~ Job     (Job 1:21 ESV)

The good old days are today. Regardless of currently going down around us, they are known not by circumstance but as we abide in His great love and in His overflowing grace.

“No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”  ~ Jesus    (John 15:15 ESV)

Friends of the Father . . . through the Son . . . as testified to our souls by the Spirit. Doesn’t get much better than that!

All because of grace . . . All for His glory.

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