Our God is not a legalist

Job Sees The Light - Thirty-sixth in a series

Hover over the Scripture references to read the verses under discussion

Job 35:1-3 NIV In any lengthy proceeding it is easy to lose track. That is why meetings have secretaries, trials have court recorders, and cities have newspaper archives.

The liar can forget what he earlier insisted on, and the honest person may forget the good things he has said. Who can keep track of all our words? Only God.

In Chapter 35, Elihu accuses Job of believing himself to be more righteous than God.

When Job said, What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? and what profit should we have, if we pray unto him? (Job 21:15) he was parroting what the unrighteous say, in effect, when they explain why they behave badly.

For himself, Job understood he was not a perfect man: If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse. (Job 9:20) He was confused as to why God put him in his trial (Job 10:15), and he defended his integrity (Job 27:6), but did he ever say there was no reason under heaven to practice good behavior and do right? No.

Elihu believed that Job’s words taken as a whole implied that the Lord was unjust. Some will agree with Elihu, and others will say they heard Job crying out for answers, which we all must do when we are in a trial.

Elihu frowned on Job’s desperate moaning. Stop crying out to God on the basis of your own righteousness — as though your good behavior should merit God’s answer!

Yes, Job had felt that God loved him and heard his prayers because he carefully followed God's ways. Elihu will now explain why that way of thinking is all wrong.

Job 35:4-8 NIV First, why should man assume God is in any way affected by his behavior? He is not! Ones bad or good behavior affects only other people.

Elihu's concept of God is flawed.

If it is true that because God is so great and so high, the innocence or guilt of a petty human being is a matter of profound indifference to his Maker, on the ground that it can bring Him neither gain nor loss, we are landed, we see at once, on a very gloomy shore. We reach a conclusion fatal to all religion. - Bradley (ref)

Next, Elihu denies that God will have regard for the prideful man.

Job 35:9-14 NIV Prideful people like Job do not cry out in praise to God, crediting him for man’s unique capabilities and thankful for his divine watchcare. Therefore God does not answer nor even regard them, and much less will he regard Job who has set God on his own timetable.

Perhaps the best thing we can point out about Elihu's insights is that they are not true. Thank heavens the Lord hears the prayers of the prideful who belong to him. True, he will discipline us, but he will not forsake us.

Job 35:15-16 NIV Elihu, the dogmatist, is waiting for God to lower the boom on Job, and when he does, that will shut Job up.

Some may say that God is like Elihu –or vice versa– in that he promised: “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” (Mat 12:36-37) In the context of the passage, however, “careless” is defined as those words spoken by legalists who reject Christ.

Every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, except for the blasphemy against the Spirit (Mat 12:31) Imagine! EVERY sin and blasphemy except one. God is NOT legalistic. God is love.

The Sum of Comfort

The consolations of God - Third in a series

There are times when only a person — someone who loves us whom we love — can be our comfort. Nothing nor anyone else helps.

Some examples of this based in Scripture are:

  1. When we have lost a loved one, God may send a special person to take his or her place: And Isaac … took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her: and Isaac was comforted after his mother's death. (Gen 24:67)
  2. God may replace the love we miss from a special one or refocus the subject of ones heart's desire: Leah was an unloved wife, so God consoled her with children. And when the LORD saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb: but Rachel was barren. (Gen 29:31)
  3. God may enlarge our family circle or restore to us a distant member: Naomi was bitter after the loss of her sons and husband, “Call me Mara: for the Almighty hath dealt very bitterly with me.” (Ruth 1:20b), but when Ruth (her bereaved daughter-in-law) married Naomi’s kinsman she gained a grandson. Her friends marveled, “And he shall be unto thee a restorer of thy life, and a nourisher of thine old age: for thy daughter in law, which loveth thee, which is better to thee than seven sons, hath born him.” (Ruth 4:15)

God designed us to cherish the comfort of a loved one. Nevertheless, as we go through life we will have times of aloneness even if married and in the midst of a company of people. Then, we need God's comfort, and we understand why he sent his Son to be our brother and savior.

Jesus Christ was, for a time, human as we are, even though the heir of all things by whom God made the world. (Heb 1:2b) For a brief span he was made a little lower than the angels and tested by suffering as we are. (Heb 2:9-10)

That is why he can comfort us. Though our high priest, he can be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, having experienced them exactly as we do, but without sin. (Heb 4:15)

Some special people understood from the start who he was. One of those was Simeon, a devout man who was waiting for the consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25). He cradled baby Jesus, saying, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. (Luke 2:25-32)

Jesus is the consolation of Israel, the sum of all comfort, the whole greater than its parts. And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD. (Isa 11:2)

When he knew it was his time to die, he promised to send One in his place, the Holy Spirit: And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. (John 14:16-18)

He knows our need for consolation and the love of a special Person.

Welcoming Love

Jude - Second in a series

Jude's letter was written somewhere between 64 and 80 AD, to Christians of an unknown congregation or area: "to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, called"… (Jude 1)

Of the many translations of the Bible, from the King James to the New International and beyond, some say, To them that are sanctified or called, and some say, To those who are loved by God the Father (Jude 1). There is a Greek word that denotes "purification" and "separation" for sanctified (see 1 Cor 7:14, 1 Tim 4:5, 2 Tim 2:21, Heb 2:11, others) or, for called, "invited" or "appointed," but in Jude 1 "God's welcoming love"* is more in view. Let’s combine the language insights and say, "the welcoming love of God that sanctifies."

So, what is the welcoming love of the Lord that sanctifies? Some examples are seen in the life of Sarah, "who gave us birth" (Isa 51:2), the mother of the faithful.

When her husband, Abraham, was called by God to go to a new land, he went out "not knowing where he was going." (Heb 11:8) Sarah faithfully accompanied him, and her biggest problem turned out to be her beauty.

After arriving in the promised land, it became necessary to travel to Egypt to water their flocks. Knowing Sarah was an object of desire, Abraham entreated her, "I know that thou [art] a fair woman to look upon: Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Egyptians shall see thee, that they shall say, This is his wife: and they will kill me, but they will save thee alive. Say, I pray thee, thou [art] my sister: that it may be well with me for thy sake; and my soul shall live because of thee." (Gen 12:11-13)

She was in fact taken into Pharaoh's house, which was quickly overrun with plagues (Gen 12:17) and Pharaoh understood he had taken a man's wife. Yet he had not touched her, as he said to Abraham, "Why saidst thou, She is my sister? so I might have taken her to me to wife: now therefore behold thy wife, take her, and go thy way." (Gen 12:19)

The welcoming love of God that sanctifies is expressed in his protection and help when others forsake us. When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up. (Ps 27:10)

You may ask, Why didn't God keep Pharaoh from taking Sarah and she could have avoided the situation altogether? But recall, her beauty was very great so that Pharaoh desired her for his harem. Is it better to have no gift? We, too, have gifts coveted by controlling types, but the Lord is with us. Again and again in Scripture, God rescues his own from the attacks and strongholds of their enemies, and as we read the Bible, we begin to believe in our hearts that God will show us welcoming love in our worst straits. If we are His then we are Sarah's daughters, and must not be afraid of any fear (1 Pet 3:6): If God be for us, who can be against us? (Rom 8:31).

It appears that Sarah was given a maid as a gift for her time in Pharaoh's harem, Hagar the Egyptian (Gen 16:1). In her mid-70s Sarah still had not had children, so she offered Hagar to Abraham as a means of securing an heir. Thus was Ishmael, Abraham's first son, born.

But Sarah remained barren till she was 90 years old and then gave birth to Isaac. In time she demanded that Hagar, whose life she had upset considerably, be cast out with Ishmael, and God agreed with her judgment (Gen 21:10-12). He understood that she needed the conflict between Hagar's son and hers to be resolved. (Gen 21:9)

God’s special love for his called and kept people does not coddle them in human sin and failure. Sarah was required to live with Hagar till Ishmael was old enough to become a man on his own; yet the Lord agreed that Isaac should not grow up taunted by an adversary, even despite her being the root cause of the problem. Welcoming love does not imprison its children by guilt, shame and conflict, but rather sets us free and resolves confusion.

Before Isaac's birth, Abraham again gave Sarah into the arms of a foreign king to save his own life, and this was in the time frame of Sarah's conception! Yet, once again God protected her: And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, She is my sister: and Abimelech king of Gerar sent, and took Sarah. But God came to Abimelech in a dream by night… (Gen 20:4) and he sent her back to Abraham.

Sarah remained faithful throughout the years and the insults. She welcomed the welcoming love of God. [Many of these insights are found in the God Remembered Abraham Bible Study on SistersSite.]

In comparison, what do those outside of God's family have that is of any comfort? Why does it take some people so long to enter his gates? Why are hard-hearted souls so slow to embrace the better land where the welcoming love of God sanctifies?

Perhaps they do not feel quite ready to forego the self serving enjoyment of forbidden pleasures, and dreaming that they are in control of their personal agendas, like those whom Jude exposes. But as humans we all serve a higher power, whether the Lord or Satan, and there is no middle ground. We may think we have our own place in the sun, but we do reside in one territory or the other, in the Welcoming Love or the despising of it.

*My sources are the Interlinear Bible on Studylight.org and The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English by Alfred Marshall.

Attention Readers

Have you visited the Biotech Blog on this website? Find information and resources to help you think about biotech as a Christian.

During the summer of 2017, I explored the topic of kidney donation. Is it right for a society to permit that? To encourage it? What do you think? Read the Live Kidney Donation Series!

Should you sign your driver’s license to be an organ donor? Is cremation OK with God? Do these practices undermine the Christian doctrine of the Resurrection?

Learn more. The conscience cannot function without facts.


Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. -Mat 5:14

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