An old friend of mine had a saying that is appropriate to the book of Job. He would say that we needed to “zoom out to 30,000 feet”, to get a clear perspective on a certain situation. If you have ever flown in an airplane, you know that the perspective from that altitude makes you think about things differently.
With the book of Job, we need to zoom out to 30,000 feet, and look at the big picture. In the beginning of the book, God is bragging to the devil about the faithfulness of Job. The devil says something like “Sure he’s faithful, he’s rich, and everything is going well for him!” So they decide to make bad things happen to him, to test his faithfulness. That was the first two chapters.
Chapter 2 ends with three of Job’s friends coming to sit with him to “console” him. They do so for seven days and nights. They take turns telling Job what might be wrong with him, and why this happened to him. Their discussion takes up 36 chapters! By the way: we know that it was nothing that Job did or didn’t do, because we have already read the first two chapters. So these three friends didn’t know what they were talking about—they were full of baloney.
Finally, after a week of this, God speaks up. God’s answer is today’s reading.
- God gets their attention by speaking out of a whirlwind. (v. 1)
- God tells Job that his friends don’t know what they are talking about. (“…darkens counsel by words without knowledge?”) (v. 2)
- God tells Job to prepare for a little question and answer session with God. (v. 3)
- In the whole next paragraph, God describes the work he did, creating the world. The description here (“shut the sea with doors”, “set bars and doors”, “sunk the bases [for the firmament]” made sense to people of Job’s time. This is how they thought the world was formed. The main point is what God says in verses 4 & 5. The key phrases are “tell me if you have understanding” and “surely you know!” God is telling Job “If you’re so smart, then you know who it was who created the earth and everything in it!” God is making fun of the so-called wisdom of Job and his friends. (vv. 4-11)
- Actually, God’s questions for Job comprise the rest of chapter 38 and all the way to 42! They are, of course, unanswerable questions. Only God knows the answer to these questions, and this is the point.
- In chapter 42, Job humbly answers God. Then God criticizes Jobs friends, and tells them what they must do. There is also a happy ending for Job—his fortunes are restored.
OK, the reading was eleven verses, and I explained the whole book! But that’s what must be done to understand some things. The point of Job’s story is simple. Bad stuff happens to good people. Some try to find explanations. Maybe it was God’s will. Maybe God is testing you. Maybe you did something bad, and God is punishing you. God says that it’s all baloney! Only God holds the answer. We should stop looking for the reason. Instead, we should be like Job, who was faithful to God throughout the whole ordeal. Have faith and trust in God, and let “life” happen. God will sort it out, because He loves us. God’s got our back!
2 CORINTHIANS 6:1-13
The church in Corinth was a real bag of worms, right from the beginning. There is conflict and bad behavior throughout the story. Corinth is also where Paul met Priscilla and Aquila. They were refugees from Rome and fellow tent makers. They accepted Jesus as the Messiah, and assisted Paul in his work. Acts 18:1-17 gives the beginning of the story of the founding of the church in Corinth.
But we’re talking about Paul’s second letter to Corinth. Paul had left in a huff, after he confronted a church member about that member’s sinful ways (2 Cor. 13:2). This caused a stir. Other preachers stepped in to fill the void that Paul created. They were more eloquent in speech than Paul. They also were not ashamed to put Paul down and elevate themselves. Paul sarcastically calls these preachers “super-apostles”. This is the situation under which this letter was written. Paul is very descriptive about his difficulites in this portion of the letter. Let’s take a closer look.
- Paul begins this section of this letter by saying that he doesn’t want them to lose sight of the grace of God. If so, Paul, Silas, and Timothy’s work would have been in vain. (v. 1)
- Paul quotes Isaiah here (Is. 49:8), but he applies it to the time between Jesus’ first and second coming. “Grasp salvation now, before Jesus returns.” (v. 2)
- Beginning with verse 3, Paul defends his team’s ministry work in Corinth. They had been the subject of sharp criticism from the “super-apostles” and others in the church. (See the footnote on the next page for a list of some of the things they were saying about Paul and his team. Paul then says that his message provided no obstacles to faith, no stumbling blocks. He says that they must “commend themselves” about this. I had to look this up and think about it. To commend someone means to praise or present someone as being worthy of regard, kindness, etc.” In other words, Paul says that they must “brag on themselves”. I guess that was true, because it seems that nobody in Corinth was going to stick up for them. Paul says as much in 2 Cor. 12:11b. (v. 4a)
- From verse 4b through 10, we get a glimpse of some of the hardships that Paul, Timothy, and Silas have endured for the sake of spreading the Good News.
- He lays all of this before the people of Corinth. Their hearts are wide open, and they look for love in return. What a heartbreak! (vv. 11-13)
Why did Paul do it? Would you or I have had this level of determination and strength? One key to Paul’s motivation with this difficult church can be found in Acts 18:9-10. “One night the Lord said to Paul in a vision, “Do not be afraid, but speak and do not be silent; for I am with you… for there are many in this city who are my people.”
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
How often do we shy away from spreading the Good News, for one reason or another? Why do we do this? Would Paul have been so shy in these circumstances?
Here are a few of the things that were being said about Paul and his team. All of these are found in 2 Corinthians, although more can be found elsewhere.
- They said “His letters are weighty and strong, but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.” (10:10)
- They said that Paul does not love them. (11:11)
- They said that Paul is inferior to the “super-apostles”. (12:11b)
- Paul said “Let it be assumed that I did not burden you. Nevertheless (you say) since I was crafty, I took you in by deceit.” (12:16)
- Paul said “…you desire proof that Christ is speaking in me.” (13:3)
Last week, Jesus taught two parables about sowing seed. The second was the parable of the mustard seed. Today’s Gospel reading begins with the verse immediately following these parables.
- So, Jesus had been teaching near his home town. They were on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, probably in Capernaum. That was the home town of many of the apostles. Jesus suggests that they do some night sailing, and go across the lake. (v. 36)
- So, they headed out, leaving the crowd behind. Other boats tagged along. During the night, a storm came up. The waves were breaking over the front of the boat, and the boat was taking on water. (v. 37)
- Jesus was sleeping in the back of the boat, and unaware of the situation. The apostles woke him, evidently fearful for their lives. (v. 28)
- You know the rest. Jesus wakes up, calms the sea, and rebukes the disciples. (vv. 39-40)
- Now, comes the punch line— The disciples say “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (v. 41)
I called verse 41 the punch line because it is a recurring question that is asked throughout the Gospels—“Who is this man Jesus?” Mark, and the other Gospel writers want to challenge the reader. They want the reader to decide. They want the reader to proclaim Jesus as the Messiah, our Lord.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Why did Jesus perform these miracles? Was he just trying to keep the boat from sinking? Was he just showing off? No, I don’t think so. I believe that the miracles were an integral part of his ministry. They alert the observer to the fact that this is no ordinary person. This person is very special.
Who do you say that Jesus was—the son of a Galilean carpenter, or more?