By Mike Ratliff
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. (Philippians 1:21-26)
There are times when I see no logical reason for God to keep me alive. It is during these periods when I long to be in Heaven with Him. This existence in this evil place seems pointless at times. I see myself as so small and insignificant that it should not matter if I go missing one day. “Come on Lord, take me home!“, is my cry. Of course, I have a family which I love. My wife is not well most of the time and she needs me. So, it is after these things come to the fore of my mind that I am ashamed. I see then that my wish to depart is self-centered and selfish.
We are not quite halfway through Job. We have arrived at chapter 17 which is the place where Job has reached his death wish stage. He sees no reason to continue to breathe. All he is doing is suffering. What possible good could come of that?
My spirit is broken; my days are extinct; the graveyard is ready for me. Surely there are mockers about me, and my eye dwells on their provocation. “Lay down a pledge for me with yourself; who is there who will put up security for me? Since you have closed their hearts to understanding, therefore you will not let them triumph. He who informs against his friends to get a share of their property– the eyes of his children will fail. “He has made me a byword of the peoples, and I am one before whom men spit. My eye has grown dim from vexation, and all my members are like a shadow. The upright are appalled at this, and the innocent stirs himself up against the godless. Yet the righteous holds to his way, and he who has clean hands grows stronger and stronger. But you, come on again, all of you, and I shall not find a wise man among you. My days are past; my plans are broken off, the desires of my heart. They make night into day; ‘The light,’ they say, ‘is near to the darkness.’ If I hope for Sheol as my house, if I make my bed in darkness, if I say to the pit, ‘You are my father,’ and to the worm, ‘My mother,’ or ‘My sister,’ where then is my hope? Who will see my hope? Will it go down to the bars of Sheol? Shall we descend together into the dust?” (Job 17:1-16)
In this passage, Job is speaking to God. As we can see He tells God that his spirit is broken. As we know, God is not through with this test yet so even though Job feels that he is done, God is not done. Job tells God that since he is walking death let’s go ahead and finish it and kill him. Then Job speaks of his three friends who have revealed that they have been no help to him at all. In fact, they are no better than mockers. Then Job says something incredibe in v4. Job recognized that the spiritual blindness that his three friends have came from God. He tells God that he knows that since these men are spiritually blind and that blindness came from God then He will not exalt them either. What is this saying? Where does spiritual blindness come from? God does it. Why? He does it to accomplish His purpose according to His will. However, there are some things we can do that will cause us to be just a blind. If we persist in disobedience of our Lord’s commands then we will cause our Hearts to harden which blinds us. Also, Idolatry is the number one reason that spiritual blindness comes upon people.
What sort of idolatry could these ol‘ boys been involved in that made them such blind, pliable puppets in the hands of Satan? As we have seen in our earlier lessons, they had a false view of God. They worshipped a straw God of their own making. Their God existed in a box and could only move in a very narrow range of actions according to their wills. Now is this the Living God, God Almighty, the creator of the Universe? Anytime we don’t humbly follow the God revealed to us in scripture, but instead follow our straw God which we have made up in our own minds according to our own fleshly understanding then we are just a guilty as these three friends of Job.
Job then tells his three friends that they are welcome to counsel him further, but not about his supposed sin which they still insisted that he was guilty of. He is still teachable, but he is not going to admit to something that He has not done. I find Job’s integrity through this horrible trial as truly amazing. The only answer for that is that God is sustaining Him in the midst of the fire.
A friend of my wife told her that she had done a study on how Silver is purified. She had made that study after reading Malachi 3:1-3.
“Behold, I send my messenger and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. (Malachi 3:1-3)
My wife’s friend wanted to know what that meant that the refiner would sit and purify the silver. She shared that the refiner would put the silver in a crucible then hold it over fire until it was pure. He would skim off dross during the pruification process, but he would never take his eyes off the silver nor would he let go of the crucible nor would he remove it from the fire until the silver was pure. He would know when it was pure when he could see his reflection in it.
This analogy is a good one. I believe it shows us that our suffering as believers is meant to purify us unto Christl-likeness. We may be crying out to God to kill us or whatever, but He is doing what is best for us. I deeply desire to be Christ-like. I know, however, that I am not. I want to be humble, but I know I’m not. I want to go to Heaven, but I know that God is not done with me yet. Wouldn’t it be better to arrive in Heaven as complete as possible rather than still resembling this lost an dying world?
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