Daily Readings & Thought for December 11th. “YOU WHITEWASH WITH LIES”
When we were young ‘whitewash’ was used a lot, it was a very cheap sort of white ‘paint’ you could quickly put on walls, even splash on and a grubby wall would quickly look good – but it was all for ‘looking’ good, it easily got dirty again and could not be cleaned down.
As we continue reading Job – we see his increasing frustration at what his 3 ‘friends’ are saying; their self-righteousness is evident, and their false representation of the ways of God even more so!
Job is now even more blunt in responding to the worldly ‘wisdom’ of these three. “as for you, you whitewash with lies; worthless physicians are you all … Will you speak falsely for God and speak deceitfully for him?” [13 v.4,7] Their speaking falsely was to say that all bad things are caused by God as a punishment for sin.
This is a dangerous half-truth: it is true that God brought destruction on Nineveh as we read in Nahum today, a “city, all full of lies and plunder” [3 v.1] – a sad failure after the previous generation repented at the preaching of Jonah.
. Job is so committed to his service to God that he declares, “Though he slay me I will hope in him, yet I will argue my ways to his face. This will be my salvation. That the godless shall not come before him.” [v.15,16] Yet when God finally reveals himself in conversation and “answered Job out of the whirlwind.” [30 v.1] Job is almost silenced, see v.3-5. Later God speaks of the “friends” and says his “anger burns against” them… for you have not spoken of me what is right as my servant Job has.” [40 v.7]
Are we speaking of God and his Son “what is right”? Sadly, many use “whitewash” in their self-confident portrayal of what God is; what many talk of as “faith” has no real substance. This took our thoughts to what we read today in Peter’s 1st Epistle, he told the believers “if necessary (in the wisdom of God) you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith – more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire – may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” [1 v.6,7]
May our faith become really genuine, if it is not that way already. May we not deceive ourselves by using “whitewash” in our thinking and ways of talking.
Have you seen it? The context of the above statement we read today in the Epistle of James is most interesting – and challenging! We can say that we have seen the purpose of the Lord in many things, in particular in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, but note the particular context in which James makes this statement..
“As an example of suffering and patience, brothers, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. Behold, we consider those blessed who remain steadfast. You have heard of the steadfastness of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.” [Ch.5 v.10,11]
The Lord does nothing without a purpose, but do we always recognize that purpose? Our reading of Job illustrates God’s purpose with him in developing his character. The prophets all went through a similar development of character, although only in the larger books is this fully apparent. Studies of the lives of Jeremiah and Isaiah are most revealing about this! Now James was writing when the nation of Israel was soon to be destroyed. In v. 3 today he calls them “the last days” and he has many thoughts very suitable for these last days of the Gentile era. Patience and steadfastness were vital qualities. The Greek words could also be translated as endurance.
It is God’s will and purpose that we go through trial, look at Ch.1 v.2-4. James’ life was a huge learning curve. If we accept that, in all probability his mother was Mary (the mother of Jesus) and that Jesus made a special appearance to him after his resurrection (1 Cor. 15 v.7) we see that James is writing this as he reaches the climax of his life. Historical records indicate fairly clearly that he was martyred in A D 62.
So James marvelled at the purpose of the Lord in his life and he is exhorting others to see the same in their lives – and so remain steadfast under trial: “establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” [v.8] What an appropriate message and example for us as we near the end of 2013 and the events in and, especially around God’s Holy Land show seemingly endless conflict, the latter day “purpose of the Lord” is unfolding – and God’s purpose will become increasingly clear to those who really know his word..