Kept from falling

Job Sees The Light - Seventeenth in a series

Hover over the Scripture references to read the verses under discussion

The reader of the book of Job may ask the question that Job asks as Chapter 16 opens.

Job 16:1-3 NIV What is the purpose of these lengthy monologues? Job and his friends should stop bickering. They have been sparring for 12 chapters — and they will continue for another 16. Then a younger man will attempt to teach them for six chapters until at last the Lord speaks and has the final word.

A total of 36 chapters of God's Word are a debate or discussion over Job's righteousness and God's mysterious ways, which is why this book is set among the Bible's wisdom books. Chronologically it could be near the beginning, but by its content it belongs with the Books that seek to answer man's deepest perplexities such as why God permits human suffering, and with those writings that praise Him for who He is.

Job 16:4-5 NIV Christ said, “Man does not live by bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Mat 4:4), so we know that each word in each chapter of Job has eternal import. One great result of suffering is that it creates in us a heart of compassion. Job is being converted from a sympathetic friend to one with empathy.

Before his deep trials he could comfort the afflicted with a sincere word and a twinge of understanding, but now he can truly feel the pain of the bereft, the mourner, the depleted, the disenfranchised, the forsaken. He understands how it feels to be the one in need– the one without hope, whose brokenness is beyond repair. Now he would know exactly how to comfort the most miserable sufferer; his compassion is real.

Job 16:6-14 NIV Neither defending himself nor enduring the insults and accusations of his friends brings Job any relief. The pain he feels is not lessened by answering their charges nor by quietly ignoring them. He views their venom as God's further tearing at his heart.

It is understandable how Job has identified the Lord in this aspect of his long trial. He has accepted that his devastation is God's doing. Therefore, the cruelty of his friends is also God's work.

However, while God is permitting all these influences to wear away Job's inner strength so that he might attain a new way of seeing, it is Satan, not God, who is provoking Job's friends to attack and wound him. In similar straits, we must be clear on who the enemy is. Confusion and emotional instability quickly take over when faith in God's goodness is lost.

Job 16:15-18 NIV Job is suffering and grieving profoundly, and he views himself as an innocent sufferer, pure in heart and clean in his prayers. He sees his plight as unjust and challenges the earth — "Do not cover my blood —"! This reminds us of God's words to Cain after Cain had murdered his brother Abel. "What have you done? Listen! Your brother's blood cried out to me from the ground…"(Gen 4:10-12) It is as though the earth refuses to be an accomplice to an unjust death.

Job likewise wants the earth to testify for him, for like Abel, he has been murdered —but wait —is Job saying that God has murdered him?

Job 16:19-22 NIV On the brink of rebellion, a prophetic word is shared. Job is rescued from harsh thoughts about God by the concept of a special friend interceding on his behalf. He then returns to crying out to God, seeking the help he needs to be restored.

We are reminded the Lord is our shepherd; our souls will be restored and we will dwell in his house forever.

Enlightened by Cain, Balaam and Korah

Jude - Ninth in a series

Ready insight. That is what we get when comparisons are drawn to well-known characters. In Jude 11 we gain deep understanding of the ungodly men by considering three examples from Scripture of like-minded misfits.

Woe unto them! for they have gone in the way of Cain, and ran greedily after the error of Balaam for reward, and perished in the gainsaying of Core. (Jud 1:11)

The story of Cain brings out a number of traits of a man who would rival God.

  • Carelessly prideful - He did not show proper respect for God by his offering. (Gen 4:3)
  • Vain, temperamental - He was angry that his offering was unacceptable though Abel's had been approved. (Gen 4:5)
  • Obstinate - He did not value God's reproof and assistance to reform. (Gen 4:6, 7)
  • Self-willed - To act out his anger against God's remonstrances, he murdered his brother. (Gen 4:8)
  • Unrepentant - He would not confess his sin and by his words did not consider it punishable. (Gen 4:9)
  • Juvenile - When punished, he whined and moaned. (Gen 4:13)

This is not a man anyone would want to emulate or be likened to. Yet, he does model sins that we commit from time to time; at least, I know I do.

The ungodly men reminded Jude of Balaam in their goal to be paid for supposed religious or prophetic service. Balaam was approached by Balak, a Moabite king, to curse Israel as the nation neared the Promised Land. However, the Lord prevailed upon Balaam to bless his people instead. He was directly charged by the Lord not to curse Israel, and his donkey prevented him from spiritual blindness (Num 22:27, 28). The words he spoke to bless Israel are beautiful:

…from the hills I behold him: lo, the people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations… Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his! (Num 23:9, 10)… Surely [there is] no enchantment against Jacob, neither [is there] any divination against Israel: according to this time it shall be said of Jacob and of Israel, What hath God wrought! (Num 23:21-23) … How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, [and] thy tabernacles, O Israel! As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side… as cedar trees beside the waters… (Num 24:5 --)

Three times Balak urged Balaam to curse Israel, from one altar to the next, but Balaam instead blessed God's people and refused payment (Num 24:13), prophesying again of Israel's preeminence among the nations: I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab… (Num 24:17) So, Balak and Balaam parted ways.

Then, after having been given the very words of God to bless Israel, and even though he had been in communion with the Lord in former times (Num 22:18-20), Balaam nevertheless revealed to Balak how to defeat Israel through luring them to eat food sacrificed to idols and to fornicate. (Rev 2:14) This advice succeeded to an extent, acknowledged by Moses (Num 25:3, 18; 31:16), Joshua (Jos 22:17), Peter (2 Pet 2:15) and John (Rev 2:14), as well as Jude. Balaam wanted his payment after all.

Thus, the evil men who infiltrated the church might find means of subverting some members. Perhaps, like Balaam, they knew God's mind to some extent, yet their motives were not pure. Maybe their proclamations would be successfully contradicted by strong pastors, but there is "more than one way to skin a cat." Where they failed in prophecy, they could succeed in persuasion by appealing to appetites so hard to deny.

In the early church of the book of Acts, the core group desired not to burden the new Gentile believers with regulations but offered four simple rules, two which recall Balaam's means of cursing Israel (Num 25:2, 3): abstain from meat offered to idols and from fornication. (Acts 15:29) The Moabites drew the Hebrews into idol worship by enticing them with meat, so tempting for men who had eaten only manna for nearly four decades. Then, once they had enjoyed the tasty and filling meal, their consciences could not find a reason not to fornicate, as part of the worship of Baalpeor… "Join our love feast!" For the early Christians, the two sins may not have been associated, yet either would gnaw away at conscience, leaving the soul to dessication.

The sin of Core, or Korah, was gainsaying, an old-fashioned word for contradicting or opposing. Core was proud of his ancestry. He was the great grandson of Levi. Why should he not rule along with Moses and Aaron who were his first cousins? (see Exodus 6:16-21)

Needless to say, ministry and calling have nothing to do with pedigree. The concept of men experiencing a call from God to the ministry is an important doctrine that needs to be promoted. While it is true that Christ's church is a "kingdom of priests," the man who would oppose a leader called by God must give good reason based on Scripture, not on personal opinion and boasting.

By considering the stories of Cain, Balaam and Korah, we will have discernment when imposters arise to trouble and harm the church and the body.