Scripture reading for May 20th: Job 4-7
Friends are a precious gift to any person! Close friends whom we can share our hearts with are few and far between. I am blessed with a close friend in my wife. I also have several men who are friends I count on. But outside of your mate, friends who will stick with you and speak honestly to you are not that easy to find.
Job was in the thick of his personal crisis. He had lost his material possessions and his children, and now had lost his health as well. His body was covered with sores and he itched and ached. Worms infested the sores and he could find no rest day or night. He was just a shadow of his former self and at this point had no answers as to why this was happening to him. His own wife had advised him to curse God and die. Three friends were there with him and sat for seven days in silence.
Eliphaz finally spoke up and gave advice from the popular world-view of his day: “God punishes the wicked rewards the righteous.” In this view, any suffering was the result of some sin. Confession and honesty about your sin would restore and heal you. Eliphaz got this revelation from a personal experience with a “spirit” and by learning from personal observation. (Job 4:12-21) But this view was not the truth in Job’s case! God had allowed Job’s suffering for His own reasons and had Himself declared Job righteous before the suffering began. (Job 1:8)
Job knew his own heart and his integrity would not let him confess to something he was not aware of. He would not try to manipulate God just to get everything back. Rather than being comforted by Eliphaz’s words, he became more miserable! (Job 6:21) Job went to God in prayer for the help he needed and the answers his friend could not give! (Job 7:17-21)
I am reminded of my need for compassion for those who suffer! It is so easy to judge them from my own worldly wisdom! God’s ways are above our understanding. Listening and waiting on the Lord is a wiser course of action. My prayer: “Help me O Lord, to be a better friend to those who suffer!”
Scripture reading for May 26th: John 15:1-27
The teaching of Jesus about the Vine would have been a familiar theme to students of the Old Testament. In Isaiah 5:1-7 we have a prophetic song of the vineyard that spoke of Israel as the vineyard of the Lord and the men of Judah as His delightful plant. (Isaiah 5:7) God’s complaint was that the vine of Israel was unfruitful in obedience to the Lord because they broke His commands. Jesus, in this last night of teaching, stated that He was the true Vine and that His disciples were the branches.
“I am the True Vine, and My Father is the Gardener. He cuts off every branch in Me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit He prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in Me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me.” This parable was very easy to understand in the Hebrew culture and in many cultures around the world because grapes are grown in many places. God is the Gardener and Jesus is the True Vine because He is the only begotten Son of God. He came in perfect obedience to the Father and would bear much fruit. God as owner of the Vineyard is looking for fruit and prunes the vine for maximum fruitfulness.
“I am the Vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in Me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to My Father’s glory, that you produce much fruit, showing yourselves to be My disciples.” (John 14:5-8) Jesus stressed the importance of abiding in Him. It was only through a relationship with Him that they would produce fruit. They would have access to ask the Father for whatever they needed, and God would grant it. What a promise to those who stayed attached!