Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, on 5/18/03
"This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins" (I John 4:10, NIV).
Last week's essay, "Job's Wife," (See End Note) brought some interesting responses. Thankfully, no one threw cyber-stones at me or attempted to bring me to repentance for airing my feelings. As I said to one friend, I was loathe to write that article and still more loathe to publish it, but the Lord pressed me to do both. I wondered if it would incite Job's comforters, but the response was loving and encouraging. Most people still resonate to truth! Churchianity has made it almost a sin to say how we really feel, and we wonder why the world calls us hypocrites! Jesus was a teller of truth; Paul was a teller of truth, and I am a teller of truth, knowing full well that it got Jesus nailed to a tree and Paul stoned, run out of town, beaten, and imprisoned. Be that as it may, I call it like I see it, and then duck for cover.
After writing the piece and publishing it, I got release from my frustration at the religious types, who immediately upon hearing some negative feeling about a situation, quickly lay out a formula to fix it. They have missed the whole point of the Incarnation, which is our relationship with God and each other. There's no love in religious formulas and rituals, which is what the piece was really about.
Several people assured me that God heals today. Both Lenny and I have had dramatic experiences with God's power. He totally healed my immune system in Dec., 2000, with the words to me, "I am your flu shot." I have not had a sore throat, cough, sinusitis, bronchial infection, cold or allergy from that day to this. It is especially miraculous since there's something in the soil in South West MO that caused me to be such a sickly child that I wasn't expected to live. I praise Him continually for delivering me from the bad effects of this climate and environment and my own immune system's weakness to it, nevertheless, my back pain continues.
Some years ago when we were still in CA, I took Lenny to the ER thinking he was having a heart attack. In fact, he had a tear in his aorta. I stayed with him all night, and the next morning, went home briefly to tend to our business. They were going to transport him to another facility for the surgery to repair the damage they had discovered via x-ray and CAT Scan. When I called him a bit later, he said, "Come get me. I'm healed." He said he had felt a majestic presence enter his ER cubicle, and knew that when they did a follow up MRI, they would find nothing. He still has the written report where they observed it must have been put down in error, though the x-ray and the CAT Scan clearly revealed the tear before God healed him.
We KNOW God can and does heal. Why He delays now in healing Lenny's illnesses, we don't understand, and He knows how I feel about that. I'm a son, not a mushroom, and I want to know. Until He shows us, we rest in His grace.
I read the entire book of Job in one sitting this week, and discovered again that I have more in common with Job than with his wife. Throughout all the devastation which fell upon him, and the three religious friends who allegedly came to comfort him, he merely wanted to know WHY? I have read the book of Job several times in my life. When I was a youth, I thought, "Why do people talk about the 'patience of Job?' He wasn't patient at all. He whined non stop for chapter after chapter, and he was a little self-righteous around the edges."
Later on in my walk with the Lord, I thought that Job was a man who needed to know he had power over the evil one. Now that I'm older and wiser and have made a few trips of my own around Mount Sinai, I see that this is perhaps the only way to show someone born on the "good side" of the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that works don't cut it, never have and never will.
Here was a man about whom God said to Satan, "There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason" (Job 2:3). The writer of the book proclaimed in the first chapter that "He was the greatest man among all the people in the East" (Vs. 3). His charitable works and his piety were well known, and yet when Eliphaz the Temanite began to speak, one of the first things he pointed out was that only the wicked are punished, not the good people: "Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed? As I have observed, those who plow evil and those who sow trouble reap it. (Law) At the breath of God they are destroyed; at the blast of his anger they perish" (Job 4:7-9). This "Word of Faith" teacher calls for Job to repent (5:8-9), which would bring him safety, security and prosperity: "You will know that your tent is secure; you will take stock of your property and find nothing missing. You will know that your children will be many, and your descendants like the grass of the earth. You will come to the grave in full vigor, like sheaves gathered in season. "We have examined this, and it is true. So hear it and apply it to yourself" (Job 5:24-27).
Job's body was shot, but his mind was still keen. He rebuked Eliphaz saying, "Now you too have proved to be of no help; you see something dreadful and are afraid.... (People who are fearful make up rules and rituals to cope with the fear). "How painful are honest words! But what do your arguments prove? Do you mean to correct what I say, and treat the words of a despairing man as wind? You would even cast lots for the fatherless and barter away your friend" (6:21,25-27). Here's a man after my own heart, who declares to God, "Therefore I will not keep silent; I will speak out in the anguish of my spirit, I will complain in the bitterness of my soul" (7:11). Job asserts his right to express his feelings freely.
Next, another church friend, Bildad the Shuhite, tells him his words are a blustering wind, and asks, "Does God pervert justice? Does the Almighty pervert what is right? When your children sinned against him, he gave them over to the penalty of their sin. But if you will look to God and plead with the Almighty, if you are pure and upright, even now he will rouse himself on your behalf (What, had He fallen asleep?) and restore you to your rightful place" (Job 8:3-6). His advice would be acceptable to most Christians, but is folly to God: "Ask the former generations and find out what their fathers learned" (8:8). How many Christians are in the church their parents belonged to for no other reason that it is what their parents believed?
Poor Job asks a very logical question, one I have asked as well: "I will say to God: Do not condemn me, but tell me what charges you have against me" (Job 10:2). Still another of his religious friends, Zophar the Naamathite also tells him he is being punished for his sins. Notice his scornful evaluation of Job's life: "You say to God, 'My beliefs are flawless and I am pure in your sight.' Oh, how I wish that God would speak, that he would open his lips against you and disclose to you the secrets of wisdom, for true wisdom has two sides. Know this: God has even forgotten some of your sin. "Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens, what can you do? They are deeper than the depths of the grave, what can you know? "If he comes along and confines you in prison and convenes a court, who can oppose him? Surely he recognizes deceitful men; and when he sees evil, does he not take note?" (Job 11:4-11). This judgmental Pharisee has a surprise in store for him later on.
And like any good revival preacher, after reducing the man to rubble, Zophar offers hope if Job will only answer the altar call: "Yet if you devote your heart to him and stretch out your hands to him, if you put away the sin that is in your hand and allow no evil to dwell in your tent, then you will lift up your face without shame; you will stand firm and without fear" (11:13-14). If he does not, then woe unto him: "But the eyes of the wicked will fail, and escape will elude them; their hope will become a dying gasp" (11:20). "Repent or else," is the message here.
Job was bone thin, covered in sores, had a fever, bad breath, weakness, bad dreams, and was unable to sleep, but he had not lost his spunk. He replied sarcastically, "Doubtless you are the people, and wisdom will die with you! But I have a mind as well as you; I am not inferior to you. Who does not know all these things?" (Job 12:2-3). He then turns the tables and asks his comforters, "Would it turn out well if he examined you? Could you deceive him as you might deceive men? He would surely rebuke you if you secretly showed partiality" (13:9-10). He refuses to let these men beat him down, declaring, "Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face" (13:15). All he wants is his day in court and to speak with God, whom he believes to be a righteous judge.
After Eliphaz rakes him over the coals a second time, Job just can't take it any more and he snaps at them, "I have heard many things like these; miserable comforters are you all! Will your long-winded speeches never end? What ails you that you keep on arguing? I also could speak like you, if you were in my place; I could make fine speeches against you and shake my head at you. But my mouth would encourage you; comfort from my lips would bring you relief" (16:1-5).
The dialogue rages back and forth until finally Job bursts out with one of the most beloved passages in the entire bible. His circumstances and his so-called comforters' harsh criticism and condemnation have pressed him into realizing just who God is to him: "I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes, I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!" (19:25-27). It seems to me that this is one purpose of adversity. It is by tribulation that we enter the kingdom, Paul said (Acts 14:22), and what does that mean? Seeing God as sovereign over all things, is what it means to me. Job was a man who had an intimate friendship with God: "when the Almighty was still with me and my children were around me, when my path was drenched with cream and the rock poured out for me streams of olive oil" (29:4-6).
When the three older friends had finished, Elihu the Buzite stood up and attempted to set them all straight, and in fact, speaks with the arrogance of youth. In one passage, he concludes, "Far be it from God to do evil, for the Almighty to do wrong. He repays a man for what he has done; he brings upon him what his conduct deserves. It is unthinkable that God would do wrong, that the Almighty would pervert justice" (34:10-12). This is man's thinking, not God's, judging a man's spiritual status based upon his physical condition. In the summation of his case against Job, Elihu also urges him to repent of his sins.
Finally after 37 long chapters of heated accusations and fierce defense rhetoric, the Lord speaks to Job out of the storm. I thrilled to see again how the Lord gathered Job into His bosom with truth and wisdom. It is beautiful, lyrical prose, which communicates to the spirit rather than to the mind. I love God's opening volley: "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone, while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? "Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, 'This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt'?" (38:4-11).
Many a night, I have stood outside enjoying the brilliant array of stars, moon, and constellations, remembering God's questions to Job. All nature is a scroll upon which is written Who created all things, Who is in control, Who is the beginning of it and Who is the end of it all. In the final scene, Job is vindicated and his friends rebuked by God for their error and the foolish doctrine they preached to him. When Job comes to enlightenment, which follows troubles like day follows night, he said to the Lord, "You asked, 'Who is this that obscures my counsel without knowledge?' Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. "You said, 'Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.' My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes" (43:3-6). Job saw the end from the beginning and understood what God had been doing in his life.
Religion consists of those who tell us ABOUT God, and who judge by appearances rather than on the evidence which only He knows. Life in the Spirit is knowing God, seeing Him in charge of every aspect of our lives, good and bad, and seeing that because we dwell IN Him, He is our source, our beginning and our end. He is our Father in the face of good and evil; "He makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust" (Matt 5:45); He works all things after the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11), and He loves us beyond measure, beyond words, beyond the capacity of the mind of man to know.
Our entire life is a love letter from God, sent to reveal the Father in us that we may see His glory and be transformed by it into His image and likeness. He wields all power and all authority in heaven and on earth; Satan has no power over us, nor does our flesh, for He that has died has ceased from sin (Rom. 6:7).
That we groan in spirit for the redemption of our bodies was prophesied by the Apostle Paul who likewise groaned, but he had absolutely no doubt that it would come to pass as He had said. Meanwhile, in our groaning, we know that nothing can separate us from the unconditional love of God, neither wars nor rumors of wars, storms, broken marriages and lives, pain nor sickness, worry nor fear nor even death, for we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us into existence, and who will love and keep us through all eternity.
Father, grant us Your peace in sorrows, and Your wisdom in trials, and Your joy in tribulation (James 1:3), to see You through the veil of tears and to know that our destination in You was ordered before the foundation of the world! Amen. Jan Antonsson
Jan and Lenny Antonsson
17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)
The Glory Road
We always enjoy hearing from you!
This page was uploaded to the web on 5/16/03
by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,
and last edited on 10/27/08.