Day 010: Holding Fast to Your Righteousness? (Job 24-28)

I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go;
    my heart does not reproach me for any of my days. Job 27:6

Job 27:6 could be taken as really arrogant. Who holds onto their own righteousness like this? Who would dare to say, with so much confidence, that their heart doesn’t reproach them for any of their days? “Any” of your days? What about that one time back in high school? What about that night when your parents were out of town? What about that one day you forgot to scan one of the items in your grocery cart?

How hard are you holding on to your righteousness now?

But Job’s confidence is in the character of God. Unlike the gods of the people around him, Job had confidence that his God could be known. That it was possible to know what it took to please God. That God did not punish or discipline for no reason. That He is not petty or capricious or whimsical or temperamental.

Remember, Job had been in the habit of offering sacrifices for each of his children the morning after a feast, just in case one of them had sinned the night before (Job 1:5). Job was more than willing to own his sin. He just wasn’t willing to admit that God would punish him without reason, or keep from him the knowledge of how to live a life pleasing to God.

This is why Job holds on to his integrity and doesn’t follow his wife’s advice to curse God and die. He is confident that God is absolutely righteous. He knows that God makes Himself known to His children. He trusts that if he had displeased God to the point that all this suffering had been heaped upon him as a punishment for sin, that he would at least know what the sin was, and that God would love him enough to show him his fault.

So even though he sounds like he is full of himself in verse 6, what he is actually full of is confidence that man can know what it takes to please God. And that brings him more solace than these “miserable comforters” (Job 16:2) ever could.

And one more thing: followers of Jesus have even more reason to hold fast to their righteousness. Why? Because it’s not our righteousness! Look what Paul says about righteousness in Philippians 3:

“Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭3:8-9‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Our righteousness is imputed to us. That means it is conferred or imparted to us by Jesus. We are declared righteous because of His righteousness. So in one sense, a believer who says he will hold on to his righteousness and not let go is saying that he will hold on to Jesus and not let go. Because the Lord will never let go of us.

Day 009: Two Big Questions (Job 21-23)

They spend their days in prosperity, and in peace they go down to Sheol. 14 They say to God, ‘Depart from us! We do not desire the knowledge of your ways. 15 What is the Almighty, that we should serve him? And what profit do we get if we pray to him?’ Job 21:13-15

There’s two big questions Job deals with in this long, depressing book. The first is “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Why were Job’s lands, livestock, and children all taken away, when Job had done his best to live a blameless and upright life before God?

But the second question may actually do more violence to our souls: “Why do good things happen to bad people?” I mean, MAYBE I could endure the suffering Job endured. Maybe the loss of everything else would drive me further into the arms of God. Maybe I could have the faith to say “When God is all I have, I realize God is all I need.”

Maybe. But I think it would only be if God took away my eyes and ears when He took away everything else. Because otherwise, I would still see the ease and comfort of other people. I would still hear the wicked boasting about their prosperity. And I would wonder why I got the raw deal I got.

That’s what is driving Job to despair in chapter 21. It’s bad enough that the devil has left Job with nothing. But when Job sees his pagan, God-cursing neighbor left with everything, it’s almost more than he can bear.

When I was trained as a disaster relief chaplain earlier this year, we were asked to role play different scenarios that were based on actual situations other chaplains had encountered on the field. Here’s the scenario my partner and I got:

You encounter a couple sorting through the wreckage of their home after a tornado. You notice that the house across the street is untouched. As you talk to the couple, they tell you that they have always gone to church and tried to be good Christians, but their neighbor across the street has no relationship with God, throws loud parties, and yells at his wife and children all the time. They want to know why their house was destroyed and his wasn’t.

I confess I got the easier of the two roles. I was the homeowner. My partner was the chaplain trying to convince me that God was faithful.

It’s an offense to our sense of justice to see the wicked prosper while the righteous suffer. We see this, and something in our spirit says, “It ought not to be this way.”

Where does that something come from? Where do we get that sense of oughtness? The theologian Karl Barth offers this as a proof that there is a world beyond this one. We long for things to be a way that they never are, and never have been. Why? Because God has set eternity in our hearts. God has wired us to long for a world in which all wrongs are put right and all scales are balanced.

I think this is what the Psalmist meant in Psalm 37:

“For the arms of the wicked shall be broken, but the Lord upholds the righteous. The Lord knows the days of the blameless, and their heritage will remain forever; they are not put to shame in evil times; in the days of famine they have abundance. But the wicked will perish; the enemies of the Lord are like the glory of the pastures; they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭37:17-20‬ ‭ESV‬‬

The prophet Isaiah promised that there would come a day when “every valley shall be lifted up, every mountain and hill will be made low, the crooked made straight, and the rough places made a plain” (Isaiah 40:4).

In other words, a level playing field. We won’t see it on this side of eternity. But the fact that we long to see it at all points to its existence. In Barth’s words:

This is the voice of our conscience, telling us of the righteousness of God. And since conscience is the perfect interpreter of life, what it tells us is no question, no riddle, no problem, but a fact — the deepest, innermost, surest fact of life: God is righteous.

Beloved, sometimes our only solace is that this life is not all there is. And as for the wicked, that is their greatest terror.

FURTHER READING: How Karl Barth Speaks to our Post-Pandemic Needs (Baptist Press)

Why do the Wicked Prosper (from

Review of Romans 1-7 For You by Tim Keller

Romans 1-7 for You by Timothy J. Keller

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love the “For You” series. I’ve read a lot of the books in this series, and have found they are helpful for preparing to lead Bible studies, small group discussions, preaching, or just generally learning more about a particular book of the Bible. Best of all, they are not so academically dense that I can’t put them in the hands of a layperson as a resource for teaching or understanding.

Each chapter covers a block of scripture verses, typically about half of the biblical chapter. And each of those chapters is divided into a part one and part two, with questions for reflection at the end of each. I’m not always clear on why the additional division, except to make them bite-sized and accessible.

Tim Keller is solid, as usual. I’ve loved everything I’ve ever read by him.

Basically, this is a great resource. As I was laying out my sermon series on Romans, this was the first commentary i reached for to help organize the structure of the series.

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Day 008: Standing on the Dust (Job 17-20)

“But I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the end he will stand on the dust. Even after my skin has been destroyed, yet I will see God in my flesh.” (Job 19:25, CSB)

Usually when I read Job 19:25, I hear Handel’s Messiah in my head, and I’m filled with hope and confidence that one day Jesus will return and stand in the latter day upon the earth. But I noticed something different this morning that took me in a different, but no less hopeful, direction:

There is an alternate translation to “upon the earth” that the CSB picks up on and no other English translation: “and at the end He will stand on the dust.”

The Hebrew is ha ‘aphar. It means dust, dry earth. It’s what God made Adam out of in Genesis 2. When God pronounced judgment on Adam after the Fall, He said, “Dust thou art and to dust you shall return.” (Gen. 3:19). Ha ‘aphar.

So here’s Job, in so much pain that he is ready to die and return to dust. And he says “in the end, my Redeemer will stand on the dust. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.”

There’s a different word for “the earth.” It’s ha ‘erets, and that’s the word that refers either to land or to the planet Earth. In the beginning God created the heavens and ha ‘erets (the earth). ” (Fun Fact: if you go to Israel, you can pick up a copy of the National Israeli newspaper, Ha”Erets).

So, I don’t know that Job 19:25 is necessarily looking toward the end of all time and the return of Jesus. I think its closer to home than that. Job knows that when he returns to dust, God will be standing with him, among the dust of his earthly life, and Job will see God in his flesh.

And there’s one more beautiful nuance in verse 26, when Job says, “Even after my skin is destroyed I will behold God in my flesh.” “Skin” and “flesh”are two different words in Hebrew. Skin is the physical stuff. It’s Job’s hide. But “flesh” is Job’s person. It’s Job’s self. It’s Job as he essentially is.

So when our hide goes back to dust, God will be standing with us, and we will see Him. We will experience God in our flesh—at the core of who we essentially are. Wow.

Praise God that I don’t have to wait until the end of history to see God standing on the earth. In my darkest days, when my flesh is failing, when the world is crumbling to dust around me, I will see my Redeemer, standing on the dust, saying to me with all that He is, “Your Redeemer lives.”

“And my precious child, you live also.


Day 007: On Numbering Our Days (Job 14-16)

““Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble. Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass, look away from him and leave him alone, that he may enjoy, like a hired hand, his day.” Job 14:1, 5-6 ESV

Teach us to number our days carefully
so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts. Psalm 90:12

I wrote this on January 7, 2021. My mom passed away at the end of May last year.

One of my favorite things to do in a new year is to begin a new journal. I love the point when the blank pages before me outnumber the filled pages behind me.

But if you asked Job, at this stage of his life, if he was excited about the prospect of a new year stretching before him, the answer would be an unequivocal “no.” Job was done with suffering. Done with pain. If you were to come up to Job with a party hat and a noise maker and saying “Happy New Year,” it would be rubbing salt into wounds that were already raw.

As I write this, my mother is dying. She is 88 years old and in hospice care. There are way more filled journals in her past than there are blank journals in her future. And she’s tired. She’s done with getting her meals through a feeding tube. She is weary of hurting. She has no regrets about her life, and is honestly looking forward to coming into her eternal rest.

And because of that, I am a lot more tender toward Job this time around in my read through the Bible plan. Job doesn’t want to live a second longer than the time God has appointed for him. I don’t want to give anything away from tomorrow’s reading, but Job knows that he has a living Redeemer who will stand with him when his life on earth is done. And he’s ready to see Him. I read Job’s words. I hear the weariness in his voice. And I think of my mom, who is so ready to see her Redeemer.

I’m not there yet. This year marks my 55th year on this planet. My 35th year in ministry. My 29th year as a married man. 24th as a father. I believe there are still new adventures to be had. New lessons to be learned. New insights to be gained. And I pray, Lord, that I will come to the end of this year…

  • More at peace with You, yet more broken by You;
  • More in love with my wife yet more aware of how fragile and delicate a God-honoring marriage truly is;
  • More dedicated to my role as a father, yet more aware of my diminishing impact and years to influence their lives;
  • More confident in my leadership at my church, yet more mindful of my utter dependence on You.

Let me journey without arriving, mature without mellowing, stabilize without stagnating, and study without graduating. And let me live this year only for the glory of God.

Father,  teach me to number my days aright, that I may gain a heart of wisdom.

Day 006: The Patience of Job, and the Impatience of Zophar (Job 10-13)

Then Zophar the Naamathite answered and said:

“Should a multitude of words go unanswered,
    and a man full of talk be judged right?
Should your babble silence men,
    and when you mock, shall no one shame you?

Job 11:1-3

we often hear about “the patience of Job,” But this morning I was convicted about the impatience of Zophar, one of Job’s friends.

As I read Zophar’s response to Job’s third cycle of complaints, I noticed that Job’s friends seem to be getting more and more impatient and aggravated with him the more he complains.

They started off tentative, walking on eggshells, worried that they are going to say something offensive. But as days pass and there seems to be no breakthrough, the gloves come off, the niceties fall away, and the frustration comes out. You see it with how “in your face” Zophar is in his response. I love the heading in my ESV Bible: “Zophar Speaks: “You Deserve Worse.”

I have an ugly truth to admit as a pastor: I’m not nearly as nice as you think I am. I start off full of compassion and concern for someone. I listen well. I pray fervently. But as time goes on and the situation doesn’t improve (or gets worse) my compassion can turn to aggravation.

I find myself groaning inwardly when I see a call from a particular number. I brace myself when someone makes a beeline for me on Sunday morning, because I know they are going to want to talk to me about everything that is going on with them, right up until the moment the first song starts.

Maybe its a reaction against feeling helpless. Nobody wants to feel like they can’t solve a problem. The helplessness first wearies, then irritates, then repels. Caregivers become callous. I’ll start going to a different door at the end of the service if I know “that guy” exits on the other side of the building.

How did you do it, Lord? How do you patiently hear the prayers of everyone in the world, when I lose patience with the prayers of one congregation? I want to be more like you, and less like Zophar.

If there is one prayer to pray over your pastor, pray that his heart stays tender toward those who are suffering without relief. Pray that as the Lord renews His mercies to us every morning, our mercy toward others would be renewed.

Review of Dune by Frank Herbert

Dune by Frank Herbert

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Follow my 2022 reading journey. I’ll try to write a review of what I’m reading throughout the year.

Dune is slow going at first, but richly rewarding if you stay with it. A blurb on the back of the edition I read commented that the only other work that does world building on this level is Lord of the Rings That’s not a bad comparison. You’ll find a lot of dense mythology,

Dune was first published in 1965, the year before I was born. I’ve never been much of a sci-fi fan, but I wanted to try this one after the movie came out this year. I was struck by how much its story arc has been imitated in other stories that have come since. Dances with Wolves, The Last Samurai, Avatar— all about outsiders with superior technology who learn the ways of the native people, become accepted by them, marry a local girl, rise as a leader, and then defeat the people they came from.

I don’t know if Dune did it first or not. I wouldn’t be surprised if Herbert was influenced by the real life story of Lawrence of Arabia. The idea of “desert power” certainly reminded me of the British hero of WW1, who fought alongside Arabs against the technological superiority of the Germans.

I do have an issue with the audiobook, though. Simon Vance is always excellent as a narrator, and I would have been fine with the entire book done by him. But there are some chapters that are dramatized— James Earl Jones as Baron Harkanen, Scott Brick (also one of my favorites) as Duke Leto, and later as Stillgar, I think. And that’s the problem. Either go all the way with one or the other. Or have some logical reason for switching to a dramatized version. And this isn’t Hamilton. Don’t have the same narrator reading multiple parts, unless he’s the only narrator you have. It was just so jarring going back and forth.

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Day 005: Job’s Prayer for a Mediator (Job 6-9)

If only there were someone to mediate between us,
    someone to bring us together,
34 someone to remove God’s rod from me,
    so that his terror would frighten me no more.
35 Then I would speak up without fear of him,
    but as it now stands with me, I cannot.
Job 9:33-35

We’ve already seen the first prophecy of the coming Messiah: Genesis 3:15, where God promises that the seed of the woman will one day crush the head of the serpent. Today, in what was most likely the first book of the Bible to be written, we see Job as the first one to long for the Messiah’s coming.

Job cries for a mediator who will remove God’s punishment (“God’s rod”) from Job. Someone who would bring God and man together. Someone who would allow humanity to speak to God without fear.

Lord Jesus, thank You for being the answer to Job’s prayer! Job longed for a mediator that could stand between Himself and God. You, Lord Jesus, are that mediator! (1 Tim. 2:5). You are the One that has brought the two together, breaking down the dividing wall of hostility (Ephesians 2:14-16)!

Job wished for one that would remove the rod of God’s punishment far from him. Lord Jesus, You did (Isaiah 53:5).

Job dreamed of a day when he could speak to God without fear of Him. Oh, Lord Jesus, You made a way! You tore the veil! Because of You, we can approach the throne of Grace with confidence that we may receive grace and mercy (Hebrews 4:16).

I praise you Lord Jesus, that what was prayed by a man who lived before Abraham was fulfilled by the Son of God, who said, “Before Abraham was, I am!” (John 8:48-49)

Day 004: Have You Considered my Servant? (Job 1-5)

And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? Job 1:8

Job is one of the most perplexing books in the Old Testament. It asks A LOT of big questions, and unfortunately leaves most of them unanswered. Why do bad things happen to good people? If God is all powerful, He could prevent evil. If God is all good, He should prevent evil. So why doesn’t He?

Chapters 1-2 raise another question for me: If God is completely holy, and if evil cannot even exist in God’s presence, how is it that Satan is allowed to present himself before God in the first place?

Job is one of those books that invariably comes up whenever anyone is arrogant enough to say, “You know, when I get to heaven, I’m gonna have some questions for God.” (Sidenote—if there was a “God rolling His eyes” emoji, I would use it here).

For a book about questions, let’s not overlook the question God Himself has at the beginning of the book. Satan presents himself before the Lord. God asks Satan where he’s been. Satan says, “Oh, you know—just walking around on earth.”

And then, the question which sets up the rest of the book. God asks Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job?”

This would be the point where, if I was Job, I would want to say, “Lord, could you not mention me to the devil? I’m REALLY ok if Satan hasn’t noticed me. Let’s just let him do his thing, and I’ll do mine—k?”

Instead, God wagers His own reputation on Job’s response to suffering. Satan lays down a challenge. “God, let me mess with Job, and we will see how this so-called blameless and upright man responds to You. He praises You. Of course he does! Look how You’ve blessed him. But let me take away those blessings, and I’ll bet he blames You for it.”

And God says, You’re on.

For all the questions I might have about God, the one God has for me cuts me to the heart: could God stake His reputation on my response to suffering? Could God ever have the confidence in my character to point me out to the devil himself, and say, “Have you considered my servant James?”

Lord, today, let me be someone you could bet on against Satan, and win.

Day 003: What Was Babel About? (Genesis 8-11)

“And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.”

Genesis 11:6-7 ESV

Growing up I went through a phase where I was obsessed with Greek mythology. I loved all the stories of the gods and goddesses living on Mt Olympus, detached from but still interested in the affairs of mortals on earth. Occasionally they would come down from Olympus because they saw a beautiful woman they wanted, or because they wanted to help or harm people. I remember the gods and goddesses were a vengeful and petty bunch, jealous of one another, prideful, playing pranks, losing their temper, and so forth. In other words, all the frailties and foibles humans have, but with superpowers. And these stories were often used to explain things about nature. The oceans are salty because they were formed by the tears of a goddess. There is evil in the world because Pandora got curious. And so on.

So when I first read the story of the Tower of Babel, it sounded a little like a story out of Greek mythology. It sounded like God got threatened by what humans were capable of, so he came down and confused their language, and that’s why we all have different languages today.

But that’s not it at all. God isn’t threatened by what we can accomplish. His heart is good toward us. But God could see trouble brewing. He heard the people saying things like “let’s make a name for ourselves (v. 4)” when He desires us to make His name known.

“This will keep us from being scattered all over the earth (also v 4),” when God had already commanded them to fill the earth (Genesis 9:1).

God created us to glorify Him and enjoy fellowship with Him. So he knew that in the big picture, unity apart from God is a bigger threat to God’s children than being scattered over the earth. God would rather us be divided and dependent on Him than unified and independent. So He confused their language and scattered them.

But God didn’t leave us scattered and divided. Thousands of years later, on the day of Pentecost, Babel got unraveled, and the curse got reversed. At Babel, one language became many. At Pentecost, many languages all heard one message (see Acts 2:6). At Babel, a people gathered were scattered. At Pentecost, people who had been scattered were united (see Acts 2:5).

At Babel God’s people were together to make a name for themselves. After Pentecost, people dispersed to make God’s name famous.

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