Sunday, July 19, 2009

How God Treats His Friends

One day when the angels came to report to God, Satan, who was the Designated Accuser, came along with them. God singled out Satan and said, "What have you been up to?" Satan answered God, "Going here and there, checking things out on earth." God said to Satan, "Have you noticed my friend Job? There's no one quite like him—honest and true to his word, totally devoted to God and hating evil." Satan retorted, "So do you think Job does all that out of the sheer goodness of his heart? Why, no one ever had it so good! You pamper him like a pet, make sure nothing bad ever happens to him or his family or his possessions, bless everything he does—he can't lose! "But what do you think would happen if you reached down and took away everything that is his? He'd curse you right to your face, that's what." God replied, "We'll see. Go ahead—do what you want with all that is his. Just don't hurt him." Then Satan left the presence of God. (Job 1:6-12, The Message)

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I still recall the first time I read Eugene Peterson’s perspective of Job. I had read the story before (not to mention heard it over again from the time I was “knee high”), but never had I see the story told in this light. God counted Job as a friend, and a faithful one at that. Yet, as we know all too well, the book continues to recount event after event that brings only misery and devastation. His family is taken, his livelihood disappears, he is stricken with physical affliction, and he finds himself accused by those he considered his own close friends. I don’t know about you, but seeing that God “allowed” it to happen makes me wonder a bit.

In another account, God has so much trust and fondness for one of His prophets that He gives him a special task. He tells Hosea to go marry a prostitute, have children with her, and name them Nobody and No Mercy. Again, quite a story when you look at Hosea’s record of service to God. In our humanness, we might very well be more than a little stunned. I’ll admit, I find it a bit difficult to take and I’m not sure I could step up to this challenge or the one put to God’s friend Job. Both just seem too much to bear.

These accounts happened so long ago, we might be likely to put them in a “softer light” and just count them as lessons specifically chronicled in the Bible four our edification. They certainly occurred, but perhaps things don’t happen in quite that way anymore, right? I mean, does God still require so much of His friends and servants?

Consider the case of Charlie with me. Charlie served God faithfully as a missionary and pastor for many years. Charlie has a son my age that I have gotten to know better in the past couple of years. I had only begun to know Charlie when he began to lose his mind. My most vivid memory of him stems from a missions conference at my church where he provided the translation to the Vietnamese congregation worshipping with us that day. Since that time, Charlie now struggles to put together many words or coherent streams of thought. When I asked somebody how God could let this happen to Charlie, the reply was “Maybe because Charlie can handle it.” Charlie’s son told me “Maybe it’s because Mom can take it.”

Another man about my age, a man who was active and athletic, found he had a degenerative hip disorder. Though not yet forty when this came about, his activity began to be limited and that included curbing his soccer and running. Paul could have been very upset and bitter (I’m not sure I wouldn’t be). I’m sure his human perspective was ready to lash out at God for doing this. But as he watched his wife start off on a local mini-marathon, one he could no longer participate in, God laid a song on his heart and Paul penned the words “The next time I run, it will be to the arms of my Savior.” The words to that song blessed me when I lost my brother Mike several years later.
So all this has me thinking that maybe I shouldn’t question God’s actions so readily. Maybe I need to trust Him a little more to take good care of His friends and servants in ways that I cannot begin to imagine. And maybe I need to recognize once again that the path I am walking is crooked and things like Charlie, Paul, Hosea, and Job deal with are meant to bring strength and a deeper devotion to the God who has walked the path ahead of me. After all, nothing escapes His watchful eye, and that brings me comfort.
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  1. Have you personally felt God’s friendship in a way such as Job or Hosea felt it? How deep is your trust in God’s grace to sustain you even when your world doesn’t make sense to you?
  2. Do you look to your own strength when things “turn against you,” or have you developed a keen sense of God’s presence in your life?
  3. Does the story of Job strike a personal chord with you? Do you find yourself marveling at what God required of Hosea? Are you willing to take the next step on the crooked path fully assured that God has walked it forwards and backwards before you and has promised never to leave your side? How can that faith change your outlook on your life and circumstances?

The Message – Scripture taken from The Message. Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

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