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Philip Conley's Morning Thoughts

Morning Thoughts (Job 14:14-15 – “Work of His Hands”)

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“Work of His Hands”

Job 14:14-15, “If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come. Thou shalt call, and I will answer thee: thou wilt have a desire to the work of thine hands.”

This morning, people do different things based on a variety of motivations. Greed, love, pity, and guilt are some of the many reasons – both bad and good – that can stimulate someone to do something. One of the constants for the action is that someone acts towards a person or thing in which they have a vested interest. Maybe the interest does not affect them directly (such as charitable work), but the action means something to them personally which is why they do it. Again, the motives may be purely selfish or completely selfless, but either way, there is an interest of some kind for the work performed. When we think of God’s work upon or towards something, we may scratch our heads at what He does or how He does it, but He has an interest in what He does. To think that God is irrational or chaotic in His dealings is to ascribe foolish or no motivation to Him, which behavior does not reside within His character. He is a moral and rational being that does things for reasons and purpose, whether we can discern what or why He does things or not.

In our study verses, Job postulates on a question that man has been asking for generations. Unfortunately for many men of human philosophy, they fail to see that one of the oldest records still extant actually answered the question posed. Whether man shall live or not after this life is over has fascinated men of various cultures and walks of life, but Job unequivocally answered in the affirmative. Yes, there is life after this one, and it is affected solely by the power of God’s effectual call. Though our bodies may lie in the grave for thousands of years (as Job’s body has), there is coming a time when His voice shall raise those bodies from ashes and death to life and immortality. (John 5:28-29) To deny this concept is to deny the plain declarations from Scripture that the resurrection is a reality, and Paul dedicated a whole chapter (I Corinthians 15) on the subject to address the heresy that plagued the church by some advocating that there is no resurrection.

One of the things I appreciate about hard to understand concepts like the resurrection is the amount of plain ink that God dedicates to subjects like this one. Human minds cannot fathom how God could speak dust out of nothing and then form man from that lifeless substance. It is just as impossible for us to understand the intricacies of how that dust will be raised and re-fashioned into a glorified body that will live with Christ for all eternity. However insurmountable the ability of man to comprehend the “ins and outs” of it, God simply says to us, “I spoke once and gave life in the beginning, and I’ll speak at the end and bring life again at the end.” Nothing more needs to be said. We can see the effects of God’s powerful voice all around us while viewing the creation, and therefore, we have all the evidence that we need that God can do it again, and He will do it since He said He would. Trying to probe further into the details leads to murky thoughts that we need not engage in, and therefore Scriptural ink is used to declare the simple reality of it while also addressing the consequences that it brings about.

At the end of our study verses, we see where God’s interest lies in this work. Years after Job declared these things, the Psalmist asked what about man would make God mindful of him. (Psalm 8:3-4) When we try to fathom the power and majesty of an eternal being contrasted against weak vessels of clay, it is mind-boggling sometimes. However, Job here makes as good and simple a declaration as we can find on the subject. Why would God have such mercy and grace? Surely it is for Christ’s sake yes, but what motivated Him in the beginning to do anything for or to us? Job here says that His resurrection power displayed upon man is for the simple reason that He has a desire toward the work of his hands. Now, we can see from Scripture that creation in general can be considered the works of His hands or His handywork. However, in this context, the work of His hands is simply us. He has a desire towards us!

The word “desire” literally means to long for or yearn after. We think of that type of desire when a young man is madly in love with a maiden. Should his intentions be honorable, he longs to be with her for the rest of his life within the bonds of holy matrimony. While we may not understand why God would have this desire towards weak and broken men, yet Job here says that He does. Resurrection power stems from a motivation of desire. God desires that we live with Him forever. His call is made out of that desire, and the effect will be complete, total, and perfect. When looking at this ruined sod that we live on, there is no doubt that we cause the great grief and turmoil that we see. Yet, in spite of all that, God desires us. The bride sang to her husband that she was his and his desire was toward her. (Song of Solomon 7:10)

While there seems from our vantage point to be no conceivable reason why God would have this desire towards us, one day we will see it and know it in its fullness. Many people howl and moan when we preach that God hates people. Statements such as, “That’s not fair” and “God can’t do that” abound. Yet, the great mystery of God to us is not why He hates certain individuals like Esau. The mystery is why He loves lowlifes like Jacob. Looking at the expanse of my existence here, it befuddles me that God would love me. When thinking about my desire towards my wife before we were married, there was much to desire. She possesses both outward and inward beauty. Man in his weakened condition possessed no beauty that would be attractive to God. The very best we could attain was vanity and filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6)

Therefore, God in His great love wherewith He loved us worked upon us first inwardly (regeneration), and will one day work outwardly on us (resurrection). Both of these events will make us shine in the glorious image of His only begotten Son. On that day when we stand perfected in His sight, we will know Him as He knows us. Since He knows us down to the thoughts and intents of our hearts, we will know Him down to the thoughts and intents of His heart. As we look upon Him with adoration for all eternity, we will see, feel, and know the adoration that stimulated His actions to and for us. Until that day, I will await till my change come just as Job did and his body still does. However, while I still live here, I can rejoice in the knowledge of life after death, the source by which it comes, and the motivation behind it. Though I cannot declare the intricacies of how it will happen nor fully understand why it came about, I thank Him and praise Him for the desire that He has toward me that He would want me where He is forever. Praise His holy and blessed name!

In Hope,
Bro Philip

Morning Thoughts (Job 17:9)

Job 17:9, "The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger."

This morning, the thoughts before us and the writing style of this little piece will be quite different from most of our other efforts.  Several years ago, Elder Adam Green wrote an outstanding short expose on our study verse.  His article – by his permission – will be appended to the bottom of my writing.  It is not our intention to improve upon his conclusion but rather to expand his conclusion and thoughts in the face of two other common views to this text.  More often than not, I prefer to simply deal with the way that I believe is right rather than talking a lot about how things are not, but every so often, I feel the impression to put opposing views side-by-side to see which ones stand up the best.  Whenever one goes down that path, however, one rule must be followed for edification, "Never tear down a house unless you can build and show a better one."  Therefore, while I hope that this writing does not come across like a wrecking ball, I do hope that the conclusion of this treatise shows a better house for the tenets of our study verse to abide within.

During times and seasons of theological controversy, verses are ripped out of their immediate and direct context, and almost always, the heart and soul of the verse is completely lost.  Such has sadly happened to our verse, from my limited perspective.  Over the last several years, I have heard three opinions on this verse, and of those three, one is principally unsound, while the other is Scripturally valid but I believe ultimately misapplied.  Having said that, one position is unbearable, while the second is bearable to a point.  Both positions do share one common bond, they miss the heart and soul of the third position that I hope and trust is the right one – since it happens to be the one that I hold.

The first position on this text basically declares this verse as a prooftext for showing some over-arching principle that all children of God follow some pattern of life that is perhaps even measurable and observable to some degree.  Oftentimes, promoters of this view try to allow themselves a caveat of saying, "Even though someone may stumble and fail, if they are really a child of God, they will come back.  After all, the righteous shall hold on his way."  However, if they want to allow themselves this caveat, they immediately have this verse stripped from their theological scope, as the verse talks about "holding" rather than "returning."  No matter the language or verbiage they use for their lesson and position, this text cannot be talking about an ultimate returning.  Rather, the language of the verse only allows for people that are currently standing on the path.

The second position observes that Job is later rebuked by God for his self-justification rather than praise and worship of God. This position posits the idea that this verse is indeed one of those self-justifying statements by Job and therefore the sentiment Job expressed is – at the very least – misguided.  Indeed, when the Lord arrives upon the scene in Job 38, He will spend a great deal of time rebuking Job for that very behavior.  However, God will also go on to speak of Job speaking that which is right as well. (Job 42:7-8) So, now that we know that Job spoke things that he should and should not have, we are charged with the duty of finding out which case this was.  Let us briefly leave the immediate context and consider the big picture of this book for a moment.  When Job's three miserable comforters arrive on the scene, they have an extended dialogue that lasts from chapter 3 until the close of chapter 31.  At that point, Elihu (who had not spoken to that point) takes up the mantle of the conversation until the Lord speaks in chapter 38.  During the long dialogue between Job and the other three, a very predictable pattern ensues.

Job speaks, and then one of the three tries to take him to task for some "secret sin" that he is now suffering for.  Most of the time, the dialogue changes back and forth rather quickly.  Every so often, a speaker (generally Job) will have dialogue that lasts longer than one of our chapters and takes two chapters to encompass.  Then, one of the three will take his turn, and then Job will speak again.  However, the pattern shifts in chapter 26.  Job speaks for the entirety of chapters 26-31.  What could have prompted such a long discourse by him?  What makes the conversation shift in a direction unlike its previous history?  If we consider the short chapter 25, we see that Bildad (one of the three) asks a series of staccato-like questions that talk of God, but are meant to hurt Job.  One of those questions (Verse 4) asks, "How then can man be justified with God? or how can he be clean that is born of a woman?"  Bildad asks a question along the same subject line (justification) that Job is later rebuked by God about.  These series of questions seem to "send Job over the hill" as he starts talking for a long time.  When I consider the tenor of Job's words in those chapters, he has an edge to him that he has not previously had.

Consider a couple of chapters after our study verse.  Job is talking in chapter 19 about the beauty and glory of his Redeemer that will ultimately raise his body in glorification. (Job 19:23-27) Since this dialogue happens after our study verse, it sure does not seem to my simple mind that Job has yet entered the dire pit of self-justification.  However, Job's words are strikingly different in the chapters following Bildad's questions than they have been before.  Based on the fact that Bildad asked a question about Job's eventual failing as pointed out by God, Job's change of tone, and Job's length of speaking, I suggest that Job's self-justification occurred in those chapters and not in the midst of our study verse.  As we said at the outset, the first position is absolutely untenable as the verse does not support unsound theology.  Indeed, no verse props up rotten boards, and this verse is no exception.  The second position is not untenable or unsound, but I believe ultimately misapplied.  Therefore, let us go on to the building and beauty of the verse, and pray that God give us the wisdom and light to shine forth the richness of His word.

Since Brother Adam's article deals with Verse 8 as well as the specific language of Verse 9 itself with the usage of the word "also," let us pass from that and consider some of the other expressions in the context.  Job begins chapter 17 by talking about his low condition (Verses 1-4).  Since Job's case has gotten so pitiful, one might wonder how anyone could get through it.  Verse 6 strengthens this thought by talking about Job's case being a byword among the people, whereas before the trial, his life was more pleasant like a tabret.  Job makes the point that it was not like he never had anything, but what makes his case so hard is not just what he currently endures but also the loss that went before it.  His life is no longer like a song but is more like the sad sorrowful tale that people tell one another.

By the time that Job gets to our verse, one might think that such a situation was hopeless and wonder how anyone could possibly get through and endure it.  Yet, Job was encouraged in the thought that his life could serve as an example for others also dealing with loss.  Have you ever noticed how much it helps people when they learn that others have been where they are?  Just knowing that others feel and have felt the same kind of pain serves to lessen the blow many times.  The fear of loss and pain pales in comparison to the fear of isolation and complete loneliness.  So, for someone to know that they are not alone helps them renew their courage to press on.  The courage to deal with the loss of family and possessions and still not charge God foolishly was immense on Job's part.  The courage to rebuff 3 miserable comforters that were positive they were right about Job when Job knew they were not took mettle and fortitude.  The boldness to call his wife a foolish woman when she encouraged him to curse God and die seems sadly lacking by many today.

How could such courage endure?  Job encourages the suffering innocent and upright man by his actions.  Job's case serves to show us that we can endure and get through things, because if the Lord is on our side, who could possibly be ultimately successful against us?  Job's reminder in our verse serves as a steady and rich guide of encouragement to say what Paul said to Timothy, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith." (II Timothy 4:7) Though Paul's trials were different than Job's, Paul still made the same encouragement to the younger upright and innocent ones following him to be faithful and war a good warfare.

Practical godliness is a many faceted and flavoured subject that is quite often sullied by the promoters of theological error.  Should Job really have the idea that his words served as some guidepost on manifestation of the family of God, his words lose so much weight and power.  What is the beauty of godliness if God's children are going to do that anyway (in some preordained fashion) thereby proving their status as the family of God?  The very idea robs the beauty from service and the richness of sacrifice.  Yet, there is great beauty and richness to be found in serving the Lord at all times and seasons (even hard ones) and building the mutual faith of God's people by example.  When someone considers Job's case, they may eventually recall the fact that he did end up finally needing rebuke from on high for his presumption, but most – if not all – do immediately recollect hardships, sufferings, and the courage of the man that went through it all in spite of his torments from familiar friends and family.

Dear friends, what have we been through in our lives?  Can any of us match our case against Job's and say we have had it that bad?  Most certainly, I cannot.  Therefore, if we find roadblocks and hardships along our way, may we also (with the other upright and innocent ones) hold on our way.  If we are pursuing a life of godliness, may we strengthen our hands to the good work before us and thereby get stronger in the things of the Lord as good soldiers of the cross and war a good warfare in this life.  If we do, may our lives serve as examples of good stewardship to our children, grandchildren, other family, and friends.  Never let rotten theology rob you of a delightful time in the Lord.  If we are following the Lord, we will most assuredly find hard times, but it can still be a delightful time if He stands with us.  As the songwriter of old said, "While blessed with a sense of His love, a palace a toy would appear.  And prisons would palaces prove if Jesus would dwell with me there."

In Hope,

Bro Philip

Hold on His Way
By Elder Adam Green

Job 17:9 – "The righteous also shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger."

This remark by Job is sometimes used by some to teach that all the elect children of God will persevere in practical sanctification and a continuation of Gospel profession. But if this text is used in such a way, the candid hearer should notice that (if used to attempt to support such a position) it would quickly begin to prove more than the user intended! "The righteous shall hold on his way!" it is proclaimed. But let us consider the verse in that light for a moment. It does not say that the righteous shall return to his way. It does not say that the righteous shall falter from his way but later repent. It says that the righteous will hold on his way. If this text is to be considered to speak of practical sanctification or Gospel profession, then it would give grave doubt to the gracious state of most of those mentioned in the Bible, and all of us I fear.

Did David "hold on his way?" When he sinned with Bathsheba and had her husband murdered – was that "holding" on his way? No, that would quite surely be a falling from the good way. Did Solomon "hold on his way?" He spent a good deal of the latter years of his life engaging in idolatrous practices with his wives. That was not holding on his way. What about Lot, a man that the Scriptures specifically say was righteous? The last record of Lot shows him fathering his grandchildren in a drunken stupor. Did he "hold" on his way on that occasion?
What about the reader, or the writer? I have no desire to publish my faults and failures in this format (or any other), but I can assure the reader that I have many times fallen aside from that which I should do. I have not held on my way. The honest reader will likely make the same confession. So, then, if this passage were to be used to teach this doctrine, it would prove far more than intended.
I believe that God holds His children, and we are eternally safe in Him. Though we may fall by the wayside, or become shipwrecked as warned by Paul, our eternal destiny is still in Him and is secure. That being said, the knowledge that we can forsake our profession of faith or become shipwrecked should cause us to place great importance on doing commands of God. He may live there, and he may die there, but he will never be happy there, and the chastening hand of God will not be stilled.

Now, to understand what this verse is teaching, we must first consider the context. Job has been surrounded by miserable friends, who have attempted to blame Job's troubles on some un-confessed sin of his. The more Job defended his conduct, the more they insisted on his guilt. In this chapter, Job bemoans the continued provocation of his miserable comforters, and their seeming hypocrisy, He then states in verse 8 of the effect the history of Job's experience will have on others who hear of it, such as us. "Upright men shall be astonied at this, and the innocent shall stir up himself against the hypocrite."

Now in verse 9, he speaks of the righteous holding on his way. Notice that this verse is often misquoted, and the word "also" is left out. This word "also" ties verse 9 in with verse 8. It seems plain to me that Job is continuing to speak of the effect his story would have on future generations, specifically others who were being troubled, mocked, or scorned when they were trying to do right. What effect will it have? It will encourage the man or woman who is trying to live a Godly, righteous life to "hold on his way," They will be emboldened to keep on doing what they believe to be right. The man who knows his innocence in the face of hypocritical accusers will feel a kinship with Job, and will be strengthened.

Did Christ not give us similar encouragement? Matthew 10:24-25 states, "The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his lord. It is enough for the disciple that he be as his master, and the servant as his lord. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more shall they call them of his household?" We have similar encouragements around us today. We also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses. So then, let us use the witness of Christ, Job, and saints we know from our experience to give us courage to hold on our way, and strengthen our grip on the plow of service. Let us bow our backs to the load, and strive to live in better obedience to our Lord and Master.