Genesis 45:1-15 – The Big Reveal

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For the story of Joseph set to song, click Bend by Brandon Heath.

May the Lord bless you
    and keep you.
May the Lord smile down on you
    and show you his kindness.
May the Lord answer your prayers
    and give you peace. Amen.

Job 8:1-22

            There are various kinds of suffering, and the biblical character of Job experienced them all.  One of the most severe kinds of hurt, and the one that gets far more attention than any other in the book of Job, are the short-sighted rebukes from Job’s “friends.”  God had a severe mercy for Job.  But the friends lived in a black and white world.  Bildad expressed: “God will not reject a blameless man.”
            For Bildad, personal suffering equals personal sin and God’s disfavor, period.  Bildad could only see a linear connection, a direct line from sin to calamity.  It was simply out of his equation to think otherwise.  Since Bildad saw suffering as the direct result of sin, his remedy was to exhort toward confession of sin.  The problem with this view is that we, as the readers, already know this to be a patently false understanding of Job’s suffering.  Bildad saw the suffering, but did not discern the unseen dimension of good and evil contending behind-the-scenes between God and Satan.
            It is only normal to wonder if we have sinned against God whenever we find ourselves in the crucible of suffering.  But if we have done patient work to determine there is no personal reason for the pain, perhaps there is something going on that is much bigger than us.  Our task, like Job’s, is to entrust ourselves to God.  We might chafe at such counsel because we like to fix things that hurt.  But suffering will not last forever; it will eventually pass.  And God will always have his way in the end.  We must continually keep in mind that permanent faith transcends temporary pain.


            Loving God, take pity on my life as I seek to embrace you in both good times and bad.  I belong to you, therefore, I will not forsake you no matter how much I do not understand the suffering.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.

"Why, God?"

In Lodi, California, in March of 2006, a city dump truck backed into a car belonging to a man named Curtis Gokey. The car was damaged badly, so Gokey sued the city of Lodi for $3,600.  There is, however, a catch to the story: Curtis Gokey was driving the city dump truck that crunched his personal car. And he admitted it was his fault. The city dropped the lawsuit, stating that Gokey could not sue himself.  Like Mr. Gokey, we are often our own worst enemies. There are times when it is easy for us to justify ourselves while blaming God and/or others in the church for things we don’t like. 
            When life is not going so well, it is possible to slide into a private belief system that thinks God is not good for his promises (James 1:16-17).  At worst, one can start to think that God is the problem and the source of the trouble.  To be “self-deceived” means to go astray or slowly drift from the truth.  And it can happen to anybody.  The first step to self-deception is having expectations that do not get met.  An expected answer to prayer goes unanswered; another person lashes out and there seems to be no protection from it; an expected blessing does not come to pass – it is then that complaining and blaming God for the problem can occur.  Immediately after being delivered from Egyptian slavery, the Israelites faced some significant challenges in the desert (Exodus 15:22-16:3).  They responded not with faith but with grumbling against Moses.  They began to believe that God did not have their best interests at mind, and started to skew how they looked at the past.  The Israelites quickly forgot that Egypt was terribly hard and they were slaves.  Yet, they looked at it as the good ol’ days.
            Trusting God when we do not understand everything that is happening can be a challenge.  Asking “why” questions are not all bad.  God is big enough to take our questions.  “Why, God, did you let my son or daughter die?”  “Why, God, did you give me so-and-so to deal with?”  “Why, God, is there so much suffering in the world?”  “Why, God, do people I care about have to go through such difficulty?”  “Why, God, do the wicked go unpunished?”  “Why, God, are so many Christians dull and apathetic?”  “Why, God, does everything seem to be changing?”  “Why, God?”
            Questioning can help us make sense of our situations.  Questioning may also cause us to doubt that God is there and that he will act on our behalf.  In such times it might be tempting to blame God for a broken relationship, a terrible event, a dysfunctional church body, or an adverse situation.  But God has chosen to give us birth through the word of truth (not a word of deception and lies) so that we might have new life with fresh eyes of faith to see our situations as God sees them (James 1:18).  That is what wisdom is – the ability to see all of life from God’s perspective.  If any of us lacks wisdom, we should ask God, who gives generously without finding fault, and it will be given to us (James 1:5).  This is a promise from a good God who knows how to give good gifts.
            None of us are above falling into misinterpretations that lead to the self-deceptions of questioning the goodness of God.  We need to be vigilant in watching for the clever stories we might tell ourselves:  ‘it’s not my fault; it’s all your fault; there’s nothing I can do about it, so I’ll just belly-ache about it.’  We are all to take charge of our lives through having a robust theology of God that discerns he is always good, all the time.
            The good news is that a good God has taken care of the sin issue once for all through the cross of Christ.  He has brought us the good gifts of forgiveness and grace.  Furthermore, God has given us his Holy Spirit to help us and guide us into all truth so that we will have wisdom and humility to live the Christian life as it is meant to be lived.  The key to it all is faith – genuine authentic faith that places head, heart, and hands completely in Jesus Christ so that we have right belief, right motives, and right actions all rightly working together in a full-orbed Christianity that glorifies God and blesses Christ’s church. 


            Don’t be your own worst enemy by sabotaging your thoughts with the double-mindedness of wondering about the true nature of God.  Explore the depths of God in Christ and discover the goodness that can result even in life’s most difficult experiences.