Post 121 / The Next Language
December 20, 2022
Is It For Nought?
[Job 1:9-11 KJV] 9 Then Satan answered the LORD, and said, Doth Job fear God for nought?
10 Hast not thou made a hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side? thou hast blessed the work of his hands, and his substance is increased in the land. 11 But put forth thine hand now, and touch all that he hath, and he will curse thee to thy face.
Satan here touches something that gets pretty close to home – especially for those of us in ministry.
Only God knows the deepest motivations of the heart of man. Sometimes those motivations are subconscious to even the person involved. Some of God’s dealings with us are actually tests to make us aware of our deepest motivations and more particularly our love for God Himself. My first steps toward God were from a fear of hell and a countering promise of heaven. Job’s theology had neither of those. As egocentric as my steps toward God may have been, He did not reject them. He begins where we are, not where we ought to be.
We have to live with the possibility that our own motivations and those around us might be vulnerable to Satan’s accusation (and that “accuser of the brethren” has not gone away.)
I was paddling into a tribe in Brazil and the teenager that was with me informed me that someday he wanted to be a missionary. I innocently asked him why he had such a desire. He said he wanted to be a missionary because the only missionary he knew would spend most of his time sitting in the shade reading books and writing letters. That was attractive to a young man who had only known the toil of working the gardens in the sun and hunting the jungle for daily food.
I told him that I was a missionary and before we finished our trip I would like his opinion about if he wanted to by my kind of missionary.
As it turned out we ran out of food on that journey and ended up eating a stingray one day which was absolutely disgusting. I could enumerate several other inconveniences on that trip including being spied on by a hostile neighboring tribe who were combing the creeks for turtle eggs. Predictably, by the end of the journey the young man informed me that he really did not aspire to be my kind of missionary. He was not the first to make that decision nor the last. But then there was the young guy in Colombia that survived a harrowing trip with me on the Pacific coast and ended up pastoring the largest church in Colombia.
So, why do we serve God? Do we really love Him at all or are we just in it for the immediate and eternal gains promised? When we pay a language helper to translate Bible stories, we want them to do it for God and for their people, but you can’t ignore the dollar signs glittering in their eyes.
The same goes for compensation to potential recordists who could be seen as just employees. How do you keep those relationships God centric and not just transactional?
Let’s go back to Job. It was God who let Satan test Job’s deepest affections. He passed this high stakes test even though his wife encouraged him to curse God and die. The process of sanctification and the transforming of the mind takes time and pressure in both the loving arms of Jesus who calls, “Come unto me all ye who labor and are heavy laden,” and in the yoke which is part of the deal. “Take My yoke upon you.”
[Mat 11:28-30 KJV] 28 Come unto me, all [ye] that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. 30 For my yoke [is] easy, and my burden is light.
So, how do you measure a man’s love for God?
Jesus on more than one occasion used the love of neighbor as the measure of love for God. The good Samaritan was a well-known illustration. Another was the story of the prodigal son. The elder son served his father but could not forgive or love his repentant younger prodigal brother. If he could not share the father’s love for the prodigal it is implicit that the elder son did not really love his father as he thought. He served his father “those many years” but clearly represented those scribes and Pharisees in the audience that served God in the temple system but could not love or even recognize the Father’s Son. They eventually crucified the Son and were consumed in the judgment that ultimately befell Jerusalem only a generation later.
Could it be that Jesus was linking to the matching attitude of Jonah who pouted to God, “I pray thee, O LORD, was not this my saying, when I was yet in my country? Therefore I fled before unto Tarshish: for I knew that thou art a gracious God, and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness, and repentest thee of the evil. Therefore now, O LORD, take, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live.”
Then it was God’s turn to ask a question. “Doest thou well to be angry?…And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?”
Thus closes the story of Jonah without a resolution to the prophet’s sin. And so it is with the elder son.
If he could not share the father’s love for the prodigal, it is implicit that the elder son did not really love his father as he thought. He served his father “those many years” but clearly represented those scribes and Pharisees in the audience that served God in the temple system but could not love or even recognize the Father’s Son. They eventually crucified the Son and were consumed in the judgment that ultimately befell Jerusalem only a generation later.
And Jesus, true to His promise to fulfill the sign of Jonah, rose to reign.
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