Job 18 & 19: Words
The discussions continue, and the accusations continue in the same vein. Both Bildad and Job state: ‘how long will you continue with these words…’ Round two is simply more of round one with the heat of the insults and anger and frustration increasing. They need a “time-out” and I believe we need an interlude to consider what is important in these passages. I sometimes believe we need an interlude from constant barrage of 24 hour news cycles. Growing up under the Eisenhower administration, we spent an idyllic decade in the 1950’s. Guess what- we only had 30 minutes of news per day. Also we had a president, the man who had been the supreme commander of the armies on D-day, Dwight David Eisenhower. He was honored and respected by the majority of the population. Here was a man, as president, who made the most public profession of faith in Christ by being baptized in office! He also added these words to the Pledge of allegiance- one nation under God. And put on our paper currency- In God WE Trust, which officially became our national motto. Did you know that is our national motto by law? Now you can come up with a lot of reasons why Eisenhower’s eight years were such a peaceful, productive and idyllic period- but I believe God blessed General Eisenhower and the blessings poured down on America. (Teacher’s opinion.) Eisenhower knew as a military leader, the power and influence of words and the importance of behavior and action which backed up those words. Think about it- our leader told us our official motto for America is: In God We Trust. By his public baptism, he had already taken the personal action which said in God he trusted.
So I want us to do the following with today’s lesson:
- Take note of the power of words. This is something we must remember when we open our mouths and let words fly forward- they have power. The power of life and death. The power to build up and encourage or tear down and destroy. Words lead to action
- Call your attention to Job’s plea in Job 19:23, 24 that his words would be written down and inscribed on a rock forever. (We will see how that has been accomplished.)
- Take note of the verses in Job 19: 25, 26 and how they have been not only inscribed but set to music in Handel’s Messiah. (Also note where one of our sayings comes from- escaped by the skin of my teeth.)
THE POWER OF WORDS
As the accusations, arguments and dialogue continue we realize how repetitious they are becoming. How true this is of the arguments many of us have regarding: politics, abortion, taxes, racial divides, religions, and other popular topics. We rarely change our viewpoint nor do our arguments vary as we see firmly held positions created by closed minds.
These discussions usually end up the same way- yelling at each other as we lose our patience and temper. Yet Peter, who had more than once opened his mouth and put his foot into it had learned this truth. “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for your hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” (I Peter 3) First of all, your conduct must be such it causes others to question the reason for your hope. Secondly, your answer is always to be seasoned with gentleness and respect.
James in James 3 talks about taming the tongue. Proverbs has a lot to say about the power of the tongue. It has power to build up or destroy. It has life and death. We read in Proverbs 6:19: “ There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to Him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness that pours out lies, and a man who stirs up dissension among his brothers.” Did you notice three of those things involved the tongue?
James is saying the control of the tongue is a measure of spiritual maturity. He gives six illustrations which are grouped in three distinct categories.
The first two illustrations are: a bit in a horse’s mouth and the rudder of a ship. These illustrate how something so tiny can be so powerful. The tongue has the power to direct and influence. (Read Luke 23: 20-24 where we see the power of influence as Pilate wanted to release Jesus, but the crowd insisted he be crucified.) In the midst of life’s storms what we say can lead us to victory or defeat. It depends upon who takes control of the reins or the rudder during the storm. If your old nature takes control of the rudder during the storm, here is what your old nature will say to the Lord: “Don’t you care that we are perishing?” Which is exactly what the disciples said in the storm on the Sea of Galilee as they tried to take control of the rudder using their own strength and skills, in their own strength- in their old nature.
The next pair of illustrations James used was: fire and wild animals/ poisonous snake bites. Fire and wild beasts and poisonous bites have the power to destroy and cause great pain. Fire can be a blessing used in positive ways or it can be cause lethal destruction. John the Baptist called the Pharisees – ‘vipers’, comparing them to poisonous snakes who spread poison through the body. Or think of a roaring lion as our enemy is described, seeking whom he may devour. Wild dogs can be vicious and have powerful bites. Animals can be tamed, fire can be controlled, and the tongue must be also. God can create a fire within one’s heart that is used for good, as the disciples on the road to Emmaus said the Lord’s Word made their ‘hearts burn within them.’ But if our hearts are filled with sin, wickedness and hatred they devil can light a fire which will destroy others.
James’ final illustration was of a spring of water and a fig tree. These have the power to delight and refresh. Cool fresh water which refreshes and is necessary for life. A fig tree which produces fruit which is delicious to taste and provides nutrition to one’s body. Trees also provide welcome shade from a hot sun. “The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life. “ (Proverbs 10:11)
The water in the laver in the Old Testament tabernacle was used by the priest to cleanse themselves before entering the Holy Place. Jesus said in John 15, the water of His word cleanses us. Our words can help cleanse others. Our words can lift up or tear down. Water and the tree used by James as an illustration also go together. The root system of the tree is the most important part of the tree. If roots do not go down deep, the tree will not be healthy. Psalm 1 tells us the person who is blessed is the one who meditates in the word day and night. It tells us this produces roots which go down deep and is compared to a tree planted by the rivers of water. We are told he/she will bring forth fruit in due season and their leaf will not wither.
If we are to have tongues, speech, which delights we must have roots which go down deep. Paul prayed about ‘being rooted and established in love.’ To do this we must meet with the Lord daily and learn from Him. We must let our spiritual roots go deep into His Word. Prayer, meditation, and obedience- being a doer of the Word are the only way this will occur. This how your speech becomes seasoned.
Salt water is bitter water. James may have been thinking of the account of Moses at the waters of Marah. In Exodus 15, Moses had brought the people out of Egypt into the Wilderness of Shur and they had no water for 3 days. They came to Marah and the water was bitter. “And the people complained against Moses, saying what shall we drink?” Bitterness is contagious. We are seeing this phenomenon in this election year. The bitterness of the population is contagious.
What did God instruct Moses to do? God showed him the tree. When he cast it into the water, the waters were made sweet. The root of the word for showed him the tree, is from a verb meaning to teach. God was instructing the people. Jesus would be crucified on a tree. This a foreshadowing of Calvary.
The delivery of the people of Israel out of Egypt is a picture of our redemption. But we know we can be freed from the slavery of sin, yet find ourselves at times, bitter over life’s events. We need God to show us the tree again. Remind us of Calvary and the One who loved us and gave Himself for us.
Words have the power to influence my attitude personally. When you call someone an idiot or stupid- what does that do to that person? Do you think God is pleased you called His creation stupid?
The power of the spoken word is never more evident than in the creation account. “God said…God blessed— God said it and it was so. He spoke the universe into existence. We are told we are created in His image and one of the things we have no other creation has is the power of speech. Words which can be creative and have great power.
Words can be used to edify- build up. The Word of God has the power to build us up spiritually. It strengthens us. In fact the Word of God is alive and powerful. It is life giving, life changing, and life sustaining. Man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of God. Our words can build one another up or tear one another down. Parents must correct their children, but also build them up and praise them appropriately, not lavishly or falsely. This can create vanity. But we want them to know where their self- worth comes from- it comes from God.
Words identify us also. We are fast becoming a nation which is divided into groups which are identified by words: political, racial, sexual, economical, geographical, talented, smart, slow-learner, the haves, the have-nots, the elite and powerful, the weak and downtrodden, etc. It is interesting in America we hate the rich almost as much as we worship them.
God has only two divisions: saved and lost. Paul says in Christ there are neither Jew nor Gentile, slave or free, male or female. We are one in Christ.
Paul says” do not let unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful is building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4) And also Paul writes: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” (Colossians 3)
JOB WANTED HIS WORDS TO BE WRITTEN DOWN
God already knew this story, with all its pain and suffering, would be written down to encourage us and let us know God is always in control. God is always at work. God is always working things together for good for those who love the Lord and are the called according to the purpose.
Not only do we have the book of Job. But verses 25& 26 of Job 19 are heard by people who never open their Bibles as it a part of Handel’s Messiah. Charles Jenner collaborated with Handel on his musical compositions which featured Scripture. Jenner was a devout Christian. He wanted a musical composition which would refute the claims of those in that day which were saying God was not involved in the affairs of man. Jenner laid out the Scriptures for the Messiah. Handel would set them to music. Jenner said, “I hope he (Handel) will lay out his whole genius and skill upon it. That this composition would excel all his former compositions as the subject excels every other subject- the subject is the Messiah.” It is said when Handel received the Scriptures, he was overcome with the verses. – The music began to explode in his mind. He began to work day and night, starting on August 22nd and completing in on September 14, 1741. Finishing it Handel wrote: “To God alone – the glory.”
Whereas, we will never reach the masses Handel’s Messiah has reached. Job’s story and in particular his words in verse 25&26 have reached millions and millions.
“For I know that my Redeemer lives and He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I will know, that in my flesh I shall see God.”
Here is what we need to know about life. Disappointments are inevitable. Discouragement is a choice. Job chose not to be discouraged, although at times, he seems as if he is about to lose it all, then comes a statement of his unwavering faith as we read in today’s lesson in Job 19:25&26. Job’s suffering can only be described as the most extreme one can suffer in relationships, finances and health. Disappointment seems much too mild a word to describe his losses.
Most of us know a lot of God’s promises from the Scriptures. Yet the real battle comes when He does not respond in the way we expect Him to respond. We pray for light, and it gets darker. We pray to open the door, and it seems to be locked and bolted and will not budge.
Realize we are at a testing point, where the enemy of our soul is saying, ‘they only worship you God, because you bless them and give them good things. Now they will curse you because you do not treat them the way they want you to treat them.
As Christians we must believe, circumstances do not control us; Jesus does.
It is during these times, when we exhibit hope when others will ask us the reason for our hope. Then your words can be a cool spring of water in a dry and thirsty land. You can be a tree whose fruit provides nourishment to a starving soul.
I found a poem this week and I will close with it. For it closes with a question of self evaluation as to what kind of person you are- when disappointments arrive in the various forms they come upon us.
“I saw them tearing a building down, a group of men in a busy town.
With a hefty blow and a lusty yell, they swung with zest and a side wall fell.
Asked of the foreman, are these men skilled? The kind you would hire if you had to build?
He looked at me and laughed, no, indeed. Unskilled labor is all I need. Why, they wreck in a day or two what it has taken builders years to do.
I asked myself, as I went my way, which of these roles have I tried to play? Am I a builder with rule and square, measuring and constructing with skill can care?
Or am I a wrecker who walks into town, content with the business of tearing down?
What are you building which will be left behind you?
What will you leave to the generation which is coming of age?
We are living in a time of spiritual drought. It is a spiritually dry and thirsty land. The spiritual erosion is taking place at a rapid pace. The virus of bitterness is sweeping the land and on its way to becoming a contagious epidemic.
Are we springs of sweet water? Are we fruit bearing trees? Or have we given in to bitterness and discouragement?
Maybe what you need is for God to ‘show you the tree’ once again. Drink in through meditation the wonders of God’s love which was revealed on Calvary. He can turn bitterness into sweetness. He can heal your broken heart. Sit under the shade of His Word and watch the wonder of the Word applied to your thirsty soul.
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? “
TO GOD ALONE- THE GLORY!