Today our passages are Job 8:1–11:20; 1 Corinthians 15:1-28; Psalm 38:1-22; and Proverbs 21:28-29. The readings are from The Message by Eugene H. Peterson. If you find these readings helpful, please consider sending an offering directly to Cove Presbyterian Church, 3404 Main Street, Weirton, West Virginia or through PayPal.
Job 8-11:20 (The Message)
Does God Mess Up?1-7 Bildad from Shuhah was next to speak:
"How can you keep on talking like this?
You're talking nonsense, and noisy nonsense at that.
Does God mess up?
Does God Almighty ever get things backward?
It's plain that your children sinned against him—
otherwise, why would God have punished them?
Here's what you must do—and don't put it off any longer:
Get down on your knees before God Almighty.
If you're as innocent and upright as you say,
it's not too late—he'll come running;
he'll set everything right again, reestablish your fortunes.
Even though you're not much right now,
you'll end up better than ever.
To Hang Your Life from One Thin Thread8-19 "Put the question to our ancestors,
study what they learned from their ancestors.
For we're newcomers at this, with a lot to learn,
and not too long to learn it.
So why not let the ancients teach you, tell you what's what,
instruct you in what they knew from experience?
Can mighty pine trees grow tall without soil?
Can luscious tomatoes flourish without water?
Blossoming flowers look great before they're cut or picked,
but without soil or water they wither more quickly than grass.
That's what happens to all who forget God—
all their hopes come to nothing.
They hang their life from one thin thread,
they hitch their fate to a spider web.
One jiggle and the thread breaks,
one jab and the web collapses.
Or they're like weeds springing up in the sunshine,
invading the garden,
Spreading everywhere, overtaking the flowers,
getting a foothold even in the rocks.
But when the gardener rips them out by the roots,
the garden doesn't miss them one bit.
The sooner the godless are gone, the better;
then good plants can grow in their place.
20-22 "There's no way that God will reject a good person,
and there is no way he'll help a bad one.
God will let you laugh again;
you'll raise the roof with shouts of joy,
With your enemies thoroughly discredited,
their house of cards collapsed."
How Can Mere Mortals Get Right with God?1-13 Job continued by saying:
"So what's new? I know all this.
The question is, 'How can mere mortals get right with God?'
If we wanted to bring our case before him,
what chance would we have? Not one in a thousand!
God's wisdom is so deep, God's power so immense,
who could take him on and come out in one piece?
He moves mountains before they know what's happened,
flips them on their heads on a whim.
He gives the earth a good shaking up,
rocks it down to its very foundations.
He tells the sun, 'Don't shine,' and it doesn't;
he pulls the blinds on the stars.
All by himself he stretches out the heavens
and strides on the waves of the sea.
He designed the Big Dipper and Orion,
the Pleiades and Alpha Centauri.
We'll never comprehend all the great things he does;
his miracle-surprises can't be counted.
Somehow, though he moves right in front of me, I don't see him;
quietly but surely he's active, and I miss it.
If he steals you blind, who can stop him?
Who's going to say, 'Hey, what are you doing?'
God doesn't hold back on his anger;
even dragon-bred monsters cringe before him.
14-20 "So how could I ever argue with him,
construct a defense that would influence God?
Even though I'm innocent I could never prove it;
I can only throw myself on the Judge's mercy.
If I called on God and he himself answered me,
then, and only then, would I believe that he'd heard me.
As it is, he knocks me about from pillar to post,
beating me up, black-and-blue, for no good reason.
He won't even let me catch my breath,
piles bitterness upon bitterness.
If it's a question of who's stronger, he wins, hands down!
If it's a question of justice, who'll serve him the subpoena?
Even though innocent, anything I say incriminates me;
blameless as I am, my defense just makes me sound worse.
If God's Not Responsible, Who Is?21-24 "Believe me, I'm blameless.
I don't understand what's going on.
I hate my life!
Since either way it ends up the same, I can only conclude
that God destroys the good right along with the bad.
When calamity hits and brings sudden death,
he folds his arms, aloof from the despair of the innocent.
He lets the wicked take over running the world,
he installs judges who can't tell right from wrong.
If he's not responsible, who is?
25-31 "My time is short—what's left of my life races off
too fast for me to even glimpse the good.
My life is going fast, like a ship under full sail,
like an eagle plummeting to its prey.
Even if I say, 'I'll put all this behind me,
I'll look on the bright side and force a smile,'
All these troubles would still be like grit in my gut
since it's clear you're not going to let up.
The verdict has already been handed down—'Guilty!'—
so what's the use of protests or appeals?
Even if I scrub myself all over
and wash myself with the strongest soap I can find,
It wouldn't last—you'd push me into a pigpen, or worse,
so nobody could stand me for the stink.
32-35 "God and I are not equals; I can't bring a case against him.
We'll never enter a courtroom as peers.
How I wish we had an arbitrator
to step in and let me get on with life—
To break God's death grip on me,
to free me from this terror so I could breathe again.
Then I'd speak up and state my case boldly.
As things stand, there is no way I can do it."
To Find Some Skeleton in My Closet1 "I can't stand my life—I hate it! I'm putting it all out on the table, all the bitterness of my life—I'm holding back nothing."
2-7 Job prayed: "Here's what I want to say:
Don't, God, bring in a verdict of guilty
without letting me know the charges you're bringing.
How does this fit into what you once called 'good'—
giving me a hard time, spurning me,
a life you shaped by your very own hands,
and then blessing the plots of the wicked?
You don't look at things the way we mortals do.
You're not taken in by appearances, are you?
Unlike us, you're not working against a deadline.
You have all eternity to work things out.
So what's this all about, anyway—this compulsion
to dig up some dirt, to find some skeleton in my closet?
You know good and well I'm not guilty.
You also know no one can help me.
8-12 "You made me like a handcrafted piece of pottery—
and now are you going to smash me to pieces?
Don't you remember how beautifully you worked my clay?
Will you reduce me now to a mud pie?
Oh, that marvel of conception as you stirred together
semen and ovum—
What a miracle of skin and bone,
muscle and brain!
You gave me life itself, and incredible love.
You watched and guarded every breath I took.
13-17 "But you never told me about this part.
I should have known that there was more to it—
That if I so much as missed a step, you'd notice and pounce,
wouldn't let me get by with a thing.
If I'm truly guilty, I'm doomed.
But if I'm innocent, it's no better—I'm still doomed.
My belly is full of bitterness.
I'm up to my ears in a swamp of affliction.
I try to make the best of it, try to brave it out,
but you're too much for me,
relentless, like a lion on the prowl.
You line up fresh witnesses against me.
You compound your anger
and pile on the grief and pain!
18-22 "So why did you have me born?
I wish no one had ever laid eyes on me!
I wish I'd never lived—a stillborn,
buried without ever having breathed.
Isn't it time to call it quits on my life?
Can't you let up, and let me smile just once
Before I die and am buried,
before I'm nailed into my coffin, sealed in the ground,
And banished for good to the land of the dead,
blind in the final dark?"
How Wisdom Looks from the Inside1-6Now it was the turn of Zophar from Naamath: "What a flood of words! Shouldn't we put a stop to it?
Should this kind of loose talk be permitted?
Job, do you think you can carry on like this and we'll say nothing?
That we'll let you rail and mock and not step in?
You claim, 'My doctrine is sound
and my conduct impeccable.'
How I wish God would give you a piece of his mind,
tell you what's what!
I wish he'd show you how wisdom looks from the inside,
for true wisdom is mostly 'inside.'
But you can be sure of this,
you haven't gotten half of what you deserve.
7-12 "Do you think you can explain the mystery of God?
Do you think you can diagram God Almighty?
God is far higher than you can imagine,
far deeper than you can comprehend,
Stretching farther than earth's horizons,
far wider than the endless ocean.
If he happens along, throws you in jail
then hauls you into court, can you do anything about it?
He sees through vain pretensions,
spots evil a long way off—
no one pulls the wool over his eyes!
Hollow men, hollow women, will wise up
about the same time mules learn to talk.
Reach Out to God13-20 "Still, if you set your heart on God
and reach out to him,
If you scrub your hands of sin
and refuse to entertain evil in your home,
You'll be able to face the world unashamed
and keep a firm grip on life, guiltless and fearless.
You'll forget your troubles;
they'll be like old, faded photographs.
Your world will be washed in sunshine,
every shadow dispersed by dayspring.
Full of hope, you'll relax, confident again;
you'll look around, sit back, and take it easy.
Expansive, without a care in the world,
you'll be hunted out by many for your blessing.
But the wicked will see none of this.
They're headed down a dead-end road
with nothing to look forward to—nothing."
1 Corinthians 15:1-28 (The Message)
1 Corinthians 15
Resurrection1-2Friends, let me go over the Message with you one final time— this Message that I proclaimed and that you made your own; this Message on which you took your stand and by which your life has been saved. (I'm assuming, now, that your belief was the real thing and not a passing fancy, that you're in this for good and holding fast.) 3-9The first thing I did was place before you what was placed so emphatically before me: that the Messiah died for our sins, exactly as Scripture tells it; that he was buried; that he was raised from death on the third day, again exactly as Scripture says; that he presented himself alive to Peter, then to his closest followers, and later to more than five hundred of his followers all at the same time, most of them still around (although a few have since died); that he then spent time with James and the rest of those he commissioned to represent him; and that he finally presented himself alive to me. It was fitting that I bring up the rear. I don't deserve to be included in that inner circle, as you well know, having spent all those early years trying my best to stamp God's church right out of existence.
10-11But because God was so gracious, so very generous, here I am. And I'm not about to let his grace go to waste. Haven't I worked hard trying to do more than any of the others? Even then, my work didn't amount to all that much. It was God giving me the work to do, God giving me the energy to do it. So whether you heard it from me or from those others, it's all the same: We spoke God's truth and you entrusted your lives.
12-15Now, let me ask you something profound yet troubling. If you became believers because you trusted the proclamation that Christ is alive, risen from the dead, how can you let people say that there is no such thing as a resurrection? If there's no resurrection, there's no living Christ. And face it—if there's no resurrection for Christ, everything we've told you is smoke and mirrors, and everything you've staked your life on is smoke and mirrors. Not only that, but we would be guilty of telling a string of barefaced lies about God, all these affidavits we passed on to you verifying that God raised up Christ—sheer fabrications, if there's no resurrection.
16-20If corpses can't be raised, then Christ wasn't, because he was indeed dead. And if Christ weren't raised, then all you're doing is wandering about in the dark, as lost as ever. It's even worse for those who died hoping in Christ and resurrection, because they're already in their graves. If all we get out of Christ is a little inspiration for a few short years, we're a pretty sorry lot. But the truth is that Christ has been raised up, the first in a long legacy of those who are going to leave the cemeteries.
21-28There is a nice symmetry in this: Death initially came by a man, and resurrection from death came by a man. Everybody dies in Adam; everybody comes alive in Christ. But we have to wait our turn: Christ is first, then those with him at his Coming, the grand consummation when, after crushing the opposition, he hands over his kingdom to God the Father. He won't let up until the last enemy is down—and the very last enemy is death! As the psalmist said, "He laid them low, one and all; he walked all over them." When Scripture says that "he walked all over them," it's obvious that he couldn't at the same time be walked on. When everything and everyone is finally under God's rule, the Son will step down, taking his place with everyone else, showing that God's rule is absolutely comprehensive—a perfect ending!
Psalm 38:1-22 (The Message)
A David Psalm1-2 Take a deep breath, God; calm down— don't be so hasty with your punishing rod.
Your sharp-pointed arrows of rebuke draw blood;
my backside smarts from your caning.
3-4 I've lost twenty pounds in two months
because of your accusation.
My bones are brittle as dry sticks
because of my sin.
I'm swamped by my bad behavior,
collapsed under gunnysacks of guilt.
5-8 The cuts in my flesh stink and grow maggots
because I've lived so badly.
And now I'm flat on my face
feeling sorry for myself morning to night.
All my insides are on fire,
my body is a wreck.
I'm on my last legs; I've had it—
my life is a vomit of groans.
9-16 Lord, my longings are sitting in plain sight,
my groans an old story to you.
My heart's about to break;
I'm a burned-out case.
Cataracts blind me to God and good;
old friends avoid me like the plague.
My cousins never visit,
my neighbors stab me in the back.
My competitors blacken my name,
devoutly they pray for my ruin.
But I'm deaf and mute to it all,
ears shut, mouth shut.
I don't hear a word they say,
don't speak a word in response.
What I do, God, is wait for you,
wait for my Lord, my God—you will answer!
I wait and pray so they won't laugh me off,
won't smugly strut off when I stumble.
17-20 I'm on the edge of losing it—
the pain in my gut keeps burning.
I'm ready to tell my story of failure,
I'm no longer smug in my sin.
My enemies are alive and in action,
a lynch mob after my neck.
I give out good and get back evil
from God-haters who can't stand a God-lover.
21-22 Don't dump me, God;
my God, don't stand me up.
Hurry and help me;
I want some wide-open space in my life!
Proverbs 21:28-29 (The Message)
28 A lying witness is unconvincing;
a person who speaks truth is respected.
29 Unscrupulous people fake it a lot;
honest people are sure of their steps.
Verse of the Day
“When I felt my feet slipping, you came with your love and kept me steady. And when I was burdened with worries, you comforted me and made me feel secure.” - Psalm 94:18-19
Today's passage is from the Contemporary English Version.
Thought for the Day
French army officer and statesman, Charles de Gaulle wrote, “Since a politician never believes what he says, he is quite surprised to be taken at his word.”