Displaying items by tag: chastisements https://www.prca.org Sun, 28 May 2023 05:12:22 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Prayer From a Whale's Belly https://www.prca.org/theme/resources/sermons/reading/reformed-witness-hour/item/3686-prayer-from-a-whale-s-belly https://www.prca.org/theme/resources/sermons/reading/reformed-witness-hour/item/3686-prayer-from-a-whale-s-belly


Message Title: "Prayer from a Whale’s Belly"
Broadcast Date: July 27, 2014 (#3734)
Radio pastor: Rev. Carl Haak

Dear Radio Friends,

In our last message on the prophet Jonah we praised God who did not let His disobedient prophet go but was committed to restoring him to the path of obedience.  We learned that Jonah tried to run from God.  He did not believe God’s mercy should be shown to heathen Ninevites, the very people who were Israel’s enemies.  And he challenged God’s sovereignty, he challenged God’s very right to show mercy to whom He would show mercy and to harden whom He will (Rom. 9).  And in his disobedience, Jonah went down, down, and down.  He tried to get away from everything that would remind him of God and of his obligations to God. 

        But God did not let him go.  In the narrative of Jonah, chapter 1, we saw that God reveals His power to bring His child back.  We saw that it was God’s initiative, that God uses the whole creation at His disposal.  He brings a storm upon the ship.  He controls the role of the dice to point the finger to Jonah.  And He even used pagan men to begin the process of rebuke.  We saw that God’s process of bringing Jonah back to the place of obedience was first of all to wake him up to the reality of his sin; to indict him through the means of unbelieving men; and to have him acknowledge his sin and his worthiness of death.

        We emphasized last week that God’s purpose was to restore Jonah to obedience, not to drown him.  Jonah, even when he was cast overboard from the ship, was not in the place of full repentance.  For that, God prepared a great fish to swallow him up.  And there Jonah, in his misery, is brought by grace to repent and to turn fully to God.

        Today we are going to look at the prayer that Jonah offered from the fish’s belly in the second chapter of Jonah—perhaps the only time in history that prayer came from that place.  But any place can be a place of prayer.  There is no place like a fish’s belly, under three or four hundred feet of water, that so calls for prayer.  And there is no place where prayer will be more likely simply to magnify God and turn to Him alone.

        Jonah was brought very low.  That was the purpose of God.  God’s purpose was to show His grace and power.  As we come to this prayer, you should note with me that this is not all that Jonah prayed.  He was there for three days.  And he prayed without ceasing.  We have here only a summary of his prayer.  Secondly, you should note that the prayer is not, perhaps, organized with divisions and sub-points.  When you are in distress, you pour out your heart to God.  But there are two things that come out in his prayer.  First of all, his great distress and overwhelming fear.  “I cried…from the belly of hell….  I am cast out of thy sight…water compasses me and brings me down…my soul faints within me.”  Secondly, the prayer is characterized by faith in God’s mercy.  “He heard me.”  And that is before Jonah was delivered.  He says, “He heard me … I will look toward Thy holy temple…I will remember the Lord…salvation is of the Lord.”  Those two thoughts:  Jonah’s great distress, and his faith in God’s mercy, leapfrog over each other until at last Jonah is restored to obedience.

        “Then,” we read, “Jonah prayed unto the Lord his God out of the fish’s belly.”  It was a great fish, probably a whale or some other large fish not known to man.  We know that unbelief jeers and howls in mockery at this.  Clarence Darrow, in his great trial, said concerning a witness:  “Why, a person could believe this man’s testimony as easily as he could believe a fish swallowed Jonah.”  Well, we believe that a fish swallowed Jonah.  It is a fact.  A miracle, yes, but a fact.  Our God, who raised Jesus from the dead, could certainly cause a great monster of the deep to come alongside a boat when His prophet is thrown overboard and swallow him.  Besides, we have Jesus’ word on this.  When the unbelieving Sadducees and scribes asked Jesus for a sign to validate His claim as the Messiah, He responded (Matt. 12:39, 40), “An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:  for as Jonas was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”   The reality of Jonah being swallowed by a fish, and Christ’s resurrection, go together.  This is reality, no myth. 

        Try to put yourself in Jonah’s position.  He’s been picked up and he’s been flung over the side of a ship.  The waves have poured over him.  In all probability, he was not immediately swallowed but went through all that a man experiences in drowning, maybe even to the point of unconsciousness.  In verses 5 and 6 of his prayer he says that the weeds of the bottom wrapped themselves around his head and he felt the ooze of the muddy bottom.  He came to the roots of the mountains.  Whatever a man experiences in the last moments of drowning, Jonah experienced.  But he came to awareness and consciousness, coughing and sputtering.  And it dawned upon him that he must be in the belly of a fish.  He has air to breathe after a sort.  But he smells the rotting food in the stomach of the fish.  Think of the gastric juices, the stench, the darkness, the slimy, slopping around in the belly of a great fish.  After a while he is aware what has happened.  He has been brought down low, exceedingly low.  He is at the end of the earth.  Now the Scriptures focus, in Jonah 2, not so much on what went on inside the fish, but what went on inside Jonah.  There is where the real miracle is taking place. 

        As I pointed out, back and forth Jonah prays of his misery and his faith in God.  He sees all of his misery as affliction from the hand of God.  He calls the fish’s belly “the belly of hell,” not profanely but because he felt that he had been cast out of the sight of God and he would be abandoned.  He who ran from God’s presence now fears that he is abandoned by God.  He fears that he has had it, that God is done with him.  He is in the depths of despair.

        But then he says, “When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord” (v. 7). There is the breaking forth of faith.  He says in verse 4, “I will look again toward thy holy temple.”  And in verse 7, “I remembered the Lord:  and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.”

        We need to apply this for just a moment.  In the belly of a fish, wretched, shocked with fear day after day after day, inwardly struggling against the demons of fear, Jonah cries out in faith to God.  Does that describe you?  No, you have not been in a fish’s belly—nothing so dramatic.  But has God, in restoring you, brought you to a place like that?  You struggle with fear that you are abandoned?  You are cast off?  You have only grief and misery?  By faith, God’s gift to you, you cry out to God?  You see, we have a great truth illumined here.  We gain an accurate picture of the spiritual life of a child of God when he is under trial and severe chastisement.  Affliction is the index of the soul.  An index will tell you what is in the book.  Chastisement tells you what God has put in the heart of His child.  Here is Jonah.  Up to this point in the book we see very little of the work of God in him.  We might even say, “How can he be a child of God, that disobedient man?”  But affliction shows the true Jonah.  When Jonah is down in the depths of the sea in the fish’s belly, you find out what God put down deep into him. 

        What does affliction do to you?  In some children of God even the heaviest chastisement seems to produce no spiritual good.  God corrects and they become bitter, resentful, angry.  No sanctified spirit.  But here we see that God’s chastisement is having its intended effect.  The spell of Jonah’s sin is broken, shattered.  And in a humble and broken spirit, he cries to God to restore him in mercy.

        What was the primary concern of Jonah’s prayer?  We might answer that according to our own thinking:  “Get me out.”  Was Jonah’s primary concern simply to get out?  No.  Jonah’s primary concern in his prayer was not deliverance but a return to what he had so foolishly despised.  He had despised God’s presence.  Now, in the belly of the fish, it becomes his greatest treasure.  In chapter 1:3 we read that Jonah fled from the presence of the Lord.  And we saw that that meant that he wanted to put away from himself everything that would remind him of Jehovah.  Jonah did not believe that God was simply confined to a place on earth.  But he wanted to have no dealings with God.  He did not want to have his heart pricked by the Word of God.  He did not want to be told that he was sinning. 

        Now look at his primary concern in the belly of the fish (2:4).  “Then I said, I am cast out of thy sight; yet I will look again toward thy holy temple.”  Look to the holy temple?  In disobedience he did not want to be anywhere near that holy temple.  But now he looks toward that holy temple.  He looks to God’s presence, not simply to a building in Canaan, in Jerusalem, Solomon’s temple.  In a fish’s belly he did not know east from west, north from south, up from down.  But he says, “Here I am.  And in a sense I got exactly what I wanted.  I wanted to run from the presence of the Lord.  I got what I wanted.  But I can’t stand it.  I must have Him.  What I despised, what I foolishly turned from, what I squandered, I see now as the treasure above everything else.”  Verse 7, “When my soul fainted within me I remembered the Lord:  and my prayer came in unto thee, into thine holy temple.”  He sees his prayer as a messenger that runs from a fish’s belly to God’s throne. 

        Does that apply also to you and me?  The greatest cost of the sin of a backslidden Christian is that he has forfeited the experience of communion with God.  True repentance is a desire for the restoration of fellowship with God.  The words of the prodigal son, “I will arise and go to my father.  And I will say [what was he going to say?  Do you remember, children?  Was he going to say to his father, ‘I missed the well-spread table’?  ‘I missed my own room’?  ‘I missed all the things that were at home’?  No, ‘I will arise and go to my father and say’], father, I have sinned against thee.”  When you have lost God’s presence in disobedience, either by a deliberate disobedience or by multiplied carelessness and God now comes to chasten you, what happens?  By grace, you cry out, “I must have God!”  True repentance is evidence that the child of God wants the greatest treasure:  communion with God.

        You see, a Christian is not simply someone whose sins are forgiven and now he is off on his own so that he has comfort as he continues in his life of greed or lust or whatever it may be.  If that is the way you view a Christian, then you smear the cross of Jesus Christ.  Jesus died in order that we might have the treasure of Father’s house and fellowship.  When God restores you in repentance, when He brings the pincers of affliction into your life, His purpose is to restore you to fellowship, to have you treasure what you took so lightly, namely, the presence of God.

        But then we see also the working of faith in Jonah’s prayer.  Jonah begins to acknowledge the hand of God.  He sees that it was God who had cast him into the deep.  We would say, that is the way Jonah prays in verses 2 and 3 of chapter 2.  Now we might say when we read that, “I thought the pagan sailors cast him into the sea.  Didn’t they take up Jonah and cast him into the sea?”  Yes, it was.  But Jonah sees beyond men.  “It was Thou, O God.”  Faith sees to the cause—God’s hand.  That, too, is repentance.  If God sees fit to chasten me and lead me down, it was God’s hand that did that, not fate.  Jonah recognizes that God’s hand had caught him in his disobedience and he submits to God.  Now what happens to you when God begins to affect your life, when He begins to deal with you because of your sins?  And the wind begins to blow and He begins to shake your life all around you?  Do you say, “Oh, things are not very good at home.  Things are not very good with my husband/wife/children”?  Do you say, “Oh, my problem is those people in the church, or those elders, or that church, or my problem is the economy or …”?  Oh, may God stop our stubborn, self-loving flesh and bring us to the point where we say, “Thy hand, O God, is upon me.”  May we acknowledge the living God as the creator and understand that God brings us back to repentance.

        By faith, Jonah recognizes God’s goodness in afflicting him.  He says, “God is bringing me up from corruption” (v. 6).  He says that he will “sacrifice unto God with a voice of thanksgiving” (v. 9).  He even sees God’s goodness to him in the fish’s belly.  Chapter 1:12, he said, “I know that for my sake this great tempest is upon you.”  He understands that although he deserved death, yet God had preserved his life.

        So he makes use of God’s Word as he prays.  Jonah quoted no fewer than seven times from the psalms in his prayer.  Some of them were verbatim.  The references were these:  Psalm 130, Psalm 42, Psalm 31, Psalm 18, and Psalm 116.  Jonah is using various verses from the psalms mingled into his own prayer—because no book of the Bible so expresses the life of the child of God as the Psalms.  The Psalms are the written, spiritual biography of the work of God’s grace.  Jonah, who was a prophet, and had been a mouthpiece of God, nevertheless, when it comes to prayer, he begins to piece together the beautiful litany of the Psalms applied to his situation.

        You have the Bible, do you not?  Do the Scriptures form your prayers?  How did Jonah have the Bible?  Did he have it on a scroll?  No.  Did he have a candle?  Could he light a candle in a fish’s belly?  No.  How did he know?  He knew it, he had meditated upon it, he had learned it, it was in his heart.

        What about you?  You have God’s Word.  Do you store up God’s Word?  Do you store that Word up for days of trial?  Do you read it regularly day by day?  And in your prayers, does God’s Word come out from your lips? 

        Jonah was brought down in his prayer to confess his sin.  Verse 8, he prays, “They that observe lying vanities forsake their own mercy.”  A lying vanity is an idol, anything that turns you from God.  Whatever takes the place of God is a lying vanity.  Jonah had observed the lying vanity.  That lying vanity was his own will.  He said “No” to God.  He said that his own thoughts and desires were better than God’s.  Jonah made his own god.  “I will do as I want.”  He lifted himself over the Word of God and he forsook his own mercy.  Mercy here is the personification of God, the God of mercy.  Instead of serving the merciful God, Jonah decided he would observe a lying vanity.  Jonah says that, not to excuse but to confess, to acknowledge his sin. 

        Then Jonah goes on in verse 9:  “Salvation is of the Lord.”  I will pay my vows unto the Lord.  I vowed to be a prophet.  I vowed to go where He would send me.  I will pay that vow.  I will go back, the Lord being merciful to me, I will go back and go to Nineveh.  For salvation is of the Lord. 

        That brought comfort.  The taking of a soul from guilt and bondage and forgiving that soul and freeing that soul from the bondage of sin is the work of God.  Salvation is of the Lord.  When you are in a fish’s belly, that much is clear.  Salvation is of the Lord.

        That must be clear to you today personally.  All of our belonging to God and all of our having God as our Father and as the Almighty One who cares for us in Jesus Christ, that was not due to anything of ourselves—not our will, not our work.  We do not take the credit for that.  Oh, you might take the credit today if you are standing on your own two feet in pride.  But not if you are in the belly of a fish with the slime and ooze of your folly and your sin around you.  From the depths, when the waves and billows have gone over our soul, then we know one thing for sure:  Salvation is of the Lord.

        Why did God restore Jonah?  Because He would have Jonah first confess, “My salvation is of Thee, Lord.”  That is why the Lord does not let you go but restores you to repentance. 

        Let us pray.

        Father, we thank Thee for Thy holy Word and we ask again that Thou wilt write it upon the pages of our hearts.  We pray in the name of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ, Amen.

haak@prca.org (Haak, Carl) Reformed Witness Hour Sermons in Print Wed, 30 Jul 2014 22:32:55 -0400
Chastening https://www.prca.org/theme/resources/publications/articles/item/3693-chastening https://www.prca.org/theme/resources/publications/articles/item/3693-chastening


Brian D. Dykstra (Teacher at Hope PR Christian School, Walker, MI)

*This article was originally written as a devotional for his fellow teachers at Hope CS. It is posted here because of its broader value for our website readers.

Proverbs 3:11-12: “My son, despise not the chastening of the Lord; neither be weary of his correction: For whom the Lord loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.”

One of the responsibilities of fathers, and teachers who stand in the place of parents, is the chastening of children. Chastening is not something we eagerly anticipate doing. It is not pleasant. Whenever chastisement is given, we cannot help but wonder whether or not the chastening is given in the best way possible, or whether or not the child sees our love and godly concern for him. We are always walking a fine line of either chastening too much or too little. However, this being a covenant school, and standing in the place of covenant parents, chastening students is something we must do.

It is important to notice that the father here refers to this chastening as having its origin in the Lord. This covenant father is pointing out to his son that the chastening the son experiences does not originate in him, but in the Lord. Here we are not to view God as a Master who rules over servants. Neither are we to have in our minds the fact that God is also the Judge from whom nothing can be hidden. We must note that this chastening is of the Lord, Jehovah, the name of our covenant Father who is merciful and loving, and who delights in the fellowship of His people.

Anybody who has any experience in teaching or parenting knows there are times when children are annoying. The origin of chastening must be God’s law, not what annoys us. This is a temptation, especially when we are tired, run down or overburdened. Sometimes, we chasten for our convenience. Chastening must have its origin in God. This happens only when we have as our standard God’s law.

There are two attitudes towards God’s chastisement which we are instructed to avoid. First, we are not to despise the Lord’s chastening. To despise means to loath something because it is viewed as being worthless. Such despising could be expressed, “Let God do His worst to me for what He perceives to be my shortcomings. I am man enough to endure it and continue on my chosen way. Evidently, God disapproves of what I am doing, and therefore has brought something unpleasant into my life. So be it! My chosen way gives me pleasure. I don’t care about His correction. My way is right! As long as I may do as I please and get what I want, I don’t care about what the consequences of my sins may be.” We witness this attitude in various ways in our society. It is obvious that this response to the Lord’s chastening is not the response of faith.

The second attitude toward chastening is that we grow weary of His correction. This response does not appear to be as bad as the first, yet it is still not the response of faith. Sometimes, we are weary of experiencing a guilty conscience for our sins. After all, the wicked actually perform sin, and many times it seems they suffer no consequences for their sins. Not only do their consciences not seem to be afflicted, some even boast of their evil-doings. We, on the other hand, must implore God’s mercy and humble ourselves simply because we have sinful desires in our hearts! It doesn’t seem right. Why must we be chastened when there certainly are those who are much worse than we are. Such an attitude fails to recognize that God chastens us because He deals with us in His love. We should not be jealous of the wicked because their consciences have been seared or they seem to get away with sin. God allows them to go their own way because He has no pleasure in them. The Lord does not desire fellowship with those who are not redeemed. God will not correct them so He can walk with them and delight in their fellowship. He doesn’t love them.

God does not chasten because He sadistically enjoys seeing us squirm. God chastens those whom He loves and regards as His children. We have evidence that we are legitimate children of God when He chastens us. Our Father says He delights in us! God chastens in order to bring His children to repentance and obedient living. He will not allow us to walk in sin and assume the character or appearance of Satan, whose we were by nature. God will have us walk in His ways and will use His chastening rod to mould us into His image because He has purchased us with His Son’s blood. He will see to it that we resemble our new Master. Our Lord has not redeemed us so we can continue in the old paths of sin.

We must be quietly confident under our Father’s chastisement. We do not know His purpose with us or what our final place in His kingdom will be. God chastens so that we shun the way of evil and walk in fellowship with Him. Jehovah delights in us and would have us keep company with Him on the path He has marked out for us by His law. The Lord’s chastening maintains us in the way of fellowship with Him and the rest of His children.

bddyk@fake.com (BD Dykstra) Christian Education Devotionals Mon, 18 Aug 2014 21:18:34 -0400
427. Let All Exalt Jehovah's Goodness https://www.prca.org/theme/resources/worship-devotional/psalter/item/3103-427-let-all-exalt-jehovah-s-goodness https://www.prca.org/theme/resources/worship-devotional/psalter/item/3103-427-let-all-exalt-jehovah-s-goodness


Verse 1
Let all exalt Jehovah's goodness,
For most compassionate is He;
His mercy, excellent in fullness,
Endureth to eternity.
Let Israel praise Jehovah's goodness,
And say, Exalt His majesty;
His mercy, excellent in fullness,
Endureth to eternity.

Verse 2
Jehovah is my strength and tower,
He is my happiness and song;
He saved me in the trying hour,
Hence shall my mouth His praise prolong.
The voice of gladness and salvation
Is in the tents of righteousness;
There do they sing with adoration,
The Lord's right hand is strong to bless.

Verse 3
The Lord's right hand is high exalted,
Jehovah's strong and mighty hand;
The vaunting enemy He halted,
And made His chosen ones to stand.
I shall not die but live before Him,
And all His mighty works declare,
That all may joyfully adore Him
Who in His lovingkindness share.

Verse 4
In truth, the Lord has sorely chastened,
But not to death delivered me;
In His paternal love He hastened
To mitigate my misery.
Now open at my salutation
The gates of truth and righteousness,
And I will enter with elation,
There to proclaim my thankfulness.

Verse 5
The stone the builders had rejected,
And in contempt refused to own,
To their dismay has been selected
To be the foremost cornerstone.
This thing is from the Lord Almighty,
It is a marvel in our eyes;
Man cannot understand it rightly
Nor fathom it in any wise.

Verse 6
This is the day of full salvation
That God has made and sanctified;
Come, let us voice our jubilation,
And triumph in the grace supplied.
Save, O Jehovah, we implore Thee,
Save now Thy people, e'en today;
Prosperity send Thou in mercy.
And favor us upon our way.

Verse 7
Now blessed be the King of Glory,
That cometh in Jehovah's Name;
Out of His temple we adore Thee,
And all Thy blessedness proclaim.
The Lord is mighty; He provideth
A light for us with sore afraid;
Then be our thankful sacrifices
Upon the sacred altar laid.

Verse 8
Thou art my God, I will extol Thee,
And magnify Thy majesty;
My God, in glory none excel Thee,
Thy praise be to eternity.
Let all exalt Jehovah's goodness,
For most compassionate is He;
His mercy, excellent in fullness,
Endureth to eternity.



danny@socialvillage.ie (Super User) Psalter Tue, 07 May 2013 15:52:37 -0400
God is Greater Than Man (Job, #10) https://www.prca.org/theme/resources/sermons/reading/reformed-witness-hour/item/3601-god-is-greater-than-man https://www.prca.org/theme/resources/sermons/reading/reformed-witness-hour/item/3601-god-is-greater-than-man


Theme: God Is Greater than Man
Broadcast date: April 6, 2014 (No. 3718)
Radio pastor: Rev. Rodney Kleyn

Dear Radio Friends,

Today we’re going to consider some of the words of Job’s wise friend, Elihu, recorded in Job chapter 33 verses 8 through 13.  Before we get to them, though, I want to put Elihu’s words in context in the book of Job.

        Up to this point Job and his three friends have had an extended argument trying to explain the reason for Job’s suffering.  Job’s friends argue that his suffering is punishment from God for particular sin that Job has committed, and Job insists that this is not the case and that in fact God is his Redeemer who knows what Job is experiencing and is using it for his profit.  However, Job is still quite confused by his suffering, and has repeatedly made request to God for an explanation.

        Apparently, while they’re speaking, Job and his friends have an audience, and one of those who has been listening is a younger man by the name of Elihu. When we come to chapter 32, Job’s friends have fallen silent, most probably because they are beginning to realize that their argument for Job’s suffering is not the proper explanation, that Job, as God had said, is indeed a perfect and an upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil.  And it’s at this point that Elihu, the younger man, speaks.

        Now, there are a lot of things we can learn from the manner of Elihu’s response, especially in chapter 32 and the first seven verses of chapter 33.  Elihu shows just anger, he shows true compassion, he is humble, he is a good listener, he’s sympathetic, sincere, earnest, clear, and helpful.  The Bible calls us as Christians to mutual admonition, and Elihu is a great example to us of how we should go about this, of how we can counsel one another effectively as believers.  And there is a striking contrast between Elihu’s manner and that of the other three friends of Job, who are proud and hyper-critical and censorious and, as Job says, miserable comforters. But in today’s message, we want to focus on what Elihu says to Job, not so much how he says it, and that’s what we have in Job 33:8-13, where we read:

Surely thou hast spoken in mine hearing, and I have heard the voice of thy words, saying, I am clean without transgression, I am innocent; neither is there iniquity in me.  Behold, he findeth occasions against me, he counteth me for his enemy, He putteth my feet in the stocks, he marketh all my paths.  Behold, in this thou art not just:  I will answer thee, that God is greater than man.  Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account of any of his matters.

        In these verses Elihu identifies where Job has gone wrong in his thinking and gently rebukes him for this.  In his thinking and defense Job has become too focused on himself and his own innocence, and as a result Job is not thinking correct thoughts about God, and he misjudges God and what He has done.  The thing for us to learn today from these verses is this, that when we come into painful trials we must be very careful not to misjudge God.

        In verse 8, Elihu begins his rebuke of Job by establishing that he has listened to Job, and that what he is going to say to Job is based only on what he has heard.  He is not going to accuse Job of imagined wrongs and he is not going to talk past Job in abstract terms.  No, he is going to be fair. “Job, this is what you have said, and I want to respond to that.”  From this we learn the importance of listening to others, and not prejudging or forming answers for others without hearing them.  One of the most important things in helping and counseling and showing sympathy to others is that we listen to them.

        Then in verses nine, ten, and eleven, Elihu points to two faults in what Job has said, two complaints that Job has made.  Before we explain them, let us understand that these are common complaints, and by that I mean, these are complaints that we are all guilty of making when God in His providence brings trouble in our lives.

        What are Job’s two complaints that Elihu has heard?

        The first in verse 9 is this, “I am clean without transgression, I am innocent; neither is there iniquity in me.”  We immediately ask, is Elihu being faithful to what Job has said or is he putting words in Job’s mouth?  He seems to be quoting Job as saying, I am a man without sin, but Job had never said that.  Job was always ready to confess his need of justification and forgiveness, his need of a Redeemer and a Mediator.  So, is Elihu right to say this?  Has Job really said, I am innocent and clean and without iniquity?

        What Elihu is doing here is taking Job’s response to his three friends, and putting what Job had said to them in defense of himself, before God.  The friends had said Job was being punished for his sin.  They had gone to one extreme.  And then, in his self-defense, Job had gone to the other extreme, to say not only that it wasn’t his sin that brought this suffering, but that in fact he didn’t deserve this suffering, that God was not being fair to him.  Job had become too self-focused, and though he still had an amazing faith in God that preserved him, so that he never forsook or cursed God, still in his defense of self he did speak inappropriately about God. Job, confused by his circumstances, and focused on himself as he responds to his friends, accuses God of being unfair in His dealings with him.

        We see this, for example, in Job 10:15-16, where Job says that it makes no difference if he is wicked or righteous, because still God hunts him like a fierce lion and still God’s indignation is upon him.  We see something similar in chapter 9:22, where Job says, “He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked.”  And you see, Job is not saying he is without sin, but this, that he did not deserve what was happening to him.  That he would understand it if he was being corrected for some sin, but he was not, so what was God’s purpose.  It seemed to him that what God was doing to him was pointless, that God was acting without reason.

        And in thinking this way, Job really has bought into the theology of his three friends, that we judge the attitude of God according to what a man receives; that God’s grace is in good things and His wrath and judgment in bad things.  Now sometimes Job corrects himself on this, but in the pain and confusion, he has this short-sighted theology.

        We can and do fall into the same thinking and the same responses, very often and very easily.  When we say or think, “This isn’t fair” or “I didn’t deserve this,” or “I don’t need this in my life right now,” we are guilty of the same thing.  And it is something we give expression to, not just under heavy trials, but even in the simple things that interrupt our daily life.  We get a phone call that takes up an hour of our time, or we hit a red light, or we’ve got to fix someone else’s mistake, and we get exasperated, we focus on ourselves, and we think, I don’t deserve this.  And what we fail to see is that we’re forgetting about the sovereign rule of God over all things, and we are accusing God of being unjust and unfair in the way He deals with us.  What we need to remember is this, that even if we live the most sanctified life, we still live by grace, and that God never actually deals with us according to what we deserve.  It is His grace that sustains and keeps us in the way of purity and holiness.

        The second complaint of Job addressed by Elihu is in verses 10 and 11, “Behold, he findeth occasions against me, he counteth me for his enemy, he putteth my feet in the stocks, he marketh all my paths.”

        These words are almost a direct quote from the speech of Job in chapter 13:24-28, and in them Job accuses God of at least four things:  1) digging up things from his past and holding them against him now, 2) turning and fighting against him as an enemy, 3) torturing him in order to drag a confession out of him, and 4) putting him under constant surveillance and scrutiny in order to trap him in a sin.  In summary Job is saying that God is being too harsh, that He is treating him roughly and not dealing with him in love.

        And again, we do the same thing, when under our trials we focus on our own guilt and begin to question the love of God to us.  Is God really a Father?  Does He really love me?  If He did, why does He afflict me?  What have I done that brings this on me?  Is God my enemy?

        And then we’ve forgotten something.  Hebrews 12:5, “Ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faith when thou art rebuked of him, for whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.”

        When Job complained this way, he had forgotten that God was his loving Father, and that in love and faithfulness, and with a sanctifying purpose, He brings afflictions on His people.  This is something Elihu develops in the rest of the chapter.  One of Job’s complaints is that God has not spoken, that He has not explained Himself, and Elihu contends that, yes, God has spoken, that God is speaking to Job through his afflictions, even on the bed of his suffering.  You see, Job’s problem, and ours, is that we become so focused on ourselves and our pain, that we block our ears to the loving and correcting voice of God.  And so we have to learn, in affliction, to respond to God and not to circumstances, to think of God’s glory and not of our own peace and happiness, and then we will grow through our trials.

        These are the two common complaints that Elihu addresses, God is not fair, and God is harsh and unloving.  These complaints come from focusing on ourselves, and so Elihu helps Job by shifting his focus heavenward, to God. In verses 12 and 13, he says to Job, “Behold, in this thou art not just: I will answer thee, that God is greater than man.  Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account of any of his matters.”

        And again here, we see the gentleness of this wise counselor. He doesn’t use strong words to accuse Job of wickedness, but, because he wants to help Job and to keep Job listening, he appeals to him:  “Behold,” he says, “in this thou are not just,” or, “Listen to me, here in your thinking and talking, you’re not right.”  Then he reminds Job of two important truths that will help Job to shift his focus heavenward.

        First, he says, “God is greater than man.”  He is saying to Job, Remember, God is greater than you.  Now perhaps you think that is simplistic, that Elihu is telling Job something that Job obviously knows and already confesses.  But Elihu is reminding Job of this in connection with Job’s complaints.  Job, he is saying, God is greater than man, not just in His power and position, but also in His wisdom and justice.  He is telling Job, you must confess not only that God in His power and sovereignty has brought this suffering into your life, but also that God is just and right in what He has done and God knows what He is doing; He is not being unfair; He is not making mistakes; He is not being harsh and unloving.  God is greater than man, so man should not question God’s integrity and purposes.

        How important that is for us to remember when we are afflicted. God is greater than man.  We must say that in our afflictions, not in resignation, but in faith, with the same posture of worship that Job had when first he was afflicted.  In chapter 1, “The Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord”; and in chapter 2, “What?  Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?”  Because God is greater than man, His ways are not our ways, His thoughts are not our thoughts, His purposes are greater than our own, His timetable is not ours, He executes everything perfectly, and we do not and cannot always know why, and what we need to learn to do, more and more, is to get our eyes off ourselves and our suffering, and onto God.  Our question in suffering should not be “why?”—why is this happening to me? but “who?”—who has sent this to me?  And our answer as believers is, God.  God who is greater than man!

        Or as Paul puts it in Romans 11:33-34:  “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor?”

        God knows what He is doing, and He does not need man’s input.  God is greater than man.

        Later in the book, God will answer Job exactly in this way, chapter 40:2:  “Shall he that contendeth with the Almighty instruct him?  He that reproveth God, let him answer it.”  And Job responds by covering his mouth and being silent.  That is the appropriate response.  Do not say, God is not fair, or God is harsh and unloving, but be silent before God.  In Psalm 46:10:  “Be still and know that I am God.”

        And then, the other thing that Elihu reminds Job of is this, that God does not always give explanations for what He does, and that He is under no obligation to explain Himself to man.  In verse 13, “Why dost thou strive against him? for he giveth not account of any of his matters.”

        And again Paul understood this well.  In Romans 9 he uses this same language and applies it to the matter of predestination, of God choosing to save some and bring them to glory, and at the same time choosing to make some as vessels of wrath fitted for the destruction of hell.  People hear about this, and say, “That’s not fair,” and they want to hold God to account.  The Bible says, Romans 9:20-21: “Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?  Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus?  Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?”  And back in verse 18:  “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.”

        Any man who makes something has the right to make it as he pleases.  An artist can deliberately make his art beautiful or ugly, and when he’s done putting hours of work into it, he can tear it up, break it in pieces or burn it, if he pleases.  That is his prerogative.  It was his creation.  That is what Elihu is teaching us:  God doesn’t answer to man, so do not strive or fight with Him.  We must content ourselves with what God has revealed, and know that there are many things we do not and will not understand in this life.  God is sovereign, He works all things after the counsel of His sovereign will, and in Christ Jesus He has revealed Himself in love to His elect people, has made them His children, and promises them that He works all things for their eternal profit.

        We must be content with knowing that.  And as Elihu proceeds in the chapter, he tells Job, God is not silent as you contend, but He has revealed certain things, in other ways, and you must hear His voice in those things and believe His revelation.  And for us, this is a reminder to believe what God has taught and promised in His Word, the Bible.  We have much more than Job did.  God has given us His Word, which contains all we need to know for our salvation, and every answer and promise that we need for our life in this world.  We must trust His Word, believe His promises, and depend on His grace, not judging God by the pain or inconvenience of our circumstances.

        It is important for us to remember this in the events of our lives from day to day.  We are always in the school of chastening, and God uses the little things that He daily brings into our lives—the traffic jam, the interruption to our work, the unexpected visitors, the leaky plumbing, the insensitive comment of another—I say, God uses all these things to prepare us and to train us to look to Him and to respond to His sovereignty and love.  We have to learn that God is God over all.

        And the way to do this is to look to Jesus Christ, who gives us the perfect example of submission to the will and way of the Father.  In His suffering there is an untold pain, and a deep mystery, that we can never understand, and concerning which He also asked, “Why?  Why hast thou forsaken me?”  But as He suffers, and even as He, in the garden of Gethsemane, contemplates the bitterness of what lies ahead, He never contends with God.  Rather, He prays, “Father” (note that word) “Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.”  And from the cross:  “My God,” not simply “Oh God,” but “My God, My God, why?”  Through the torment, He cries out to God, not against Him.

        And, in this, He is not just an example, but through His suffering He guarantees that God does indeed always love us.  He spared not His own Son, for us.  He laid our sins upon Him.  And God, having pardoned and forgiven, makes us His children.  He loves us with an eternal love, the same love that He has for His own dear Son.  And out of that love, He directs all things for the good of His own.

        We mustn’t question God, or charge Him as treating us unfairly.  But as His dear children, sometimes with our hands over our mouths, receive in faith what He sends, believing it is for our good.  God is greater than man!

        Let’s pray,

        Our loving heavenly Father, we are thankful, Lord, for Thy patience with us.  We are not worthy of the least of Thy mercies.  We are guilty.  We have complained against Thee.  We have slandered Thy love.  We have maligned Thy purposes.  We have been self-absorbed in our problems.  We are like Job.  And so we pray for forgiveness, and for grace.  Help us to look heavenward, not asking why, and expecting an answer, but asking, who, and believing and trusting in Him.  For Jesus’ sake, Amen. 

r.kleyn@prca.org (Kleyn, Rodney) Reformed Witness Hour Sermons in Print Wed, 30 Apr 2014 20:45:10 -0400