Friday, December 02, 2016

Elihu—Friend or Foe?

Years ago I read the book of Job and was impressed with several things.
1.  It is a story.  And, we should read it as such.  It has a plot with a crisis and a solution.  
2.  The story wants to answer the question: why did this happen to Job?   Every character seems to think they have an answer to the question.  
3.  Most of the story is a lengthy conversation.  We should note who says what.  What is their reasoning?  
4.  Did Job ever credit God for his righteousness?  Not once do we hear Job crediting God.  As much as Job loved the Lord, he was self-righteous; this was Elihu's point.  
5. The question, "why did this happen to Job?" is answered.  Ellen G. White talks about this,
"The trials of life are God's workmen, to remove the impurities and roughness from our character. Their hewing, squaring, and chiseling, their burnishing and polishing, is a painful process; it is hard to be pressed down to the grinding wheel. But the stone is brought forth prepared to fill its place in the heavenly temple. Upon no useless material does the Master bestow such careful, thorough work. Only His precious stones are polished after the similitude of a palace."—Ellen G. White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 10.

Following are James Rafferty's thoughts on Elihu.  I pray the will enlighten our minds as we read.

Lessons from the book of Job
Elihu—Friend or Foe?
Elihu exemplifies one of the major reasons why we might not listen to what someone has to say about God. Young and obscure, Elihu presents a testimony that carries little weight among many intellectual greats. This may be one reason why God has employed farmers, shepherds, fishermen and even children (the child Samuel) as messengers of inspired truth. Heaven has a way of placing truth beyond the ken of intellectual pride.
Yet even if God speaks to us through a little child, or perhaps a donkey, He always gives us enough evidence to discern His voice. In the case of Elihu there is more than enough evidence to recognize this young man as heaven sent.
Elihu is not out to terrorize Job or overwhelm him with guilt. He assures Job that he, too, is only a vessel of clay (Job 33:6-7). 
Instead of condemning Job, he desires to justify or clear him (Job 33:32).
He does not use the same words Jobs three friends did; accusing Job of secret sins or assuming that Job's suffering proves his guilt (Job 32:14).
Elihu's approach is identical to God's. They both assert that, at times, Job had spoken without wisdom and knowledge (Job 34:35; 35:16; 38:2). Both affirm that Job has sought to "rebuke God," "annul His judgment" and "condemn" Him; that Job had "justified himself rather than God" (Job 32:2; 40:2, 8).
Elihu also introduces, in chapter 37, the same mysteries that God picks up with in chapter 38, the marvels of creation.
We should also remember that while God rebukes Job's three friends, He does not rebuke Elihu or group him with the other three (Job 42:7).
Elihu claims to be filled with the spirit of God and to speak in God's behalf, which is proved true when we compare his words with God's as noted in the previous references (Job 32:8, 36:2, 3).
Elihu is also never rebuked by Job, like his three friends were. Even when Job is given opportunity to speak, Elihu does not hear a cross word from him (Job 33:5, 32, 33).
In addition, Job repents of the very mistake both Elihu and God had brought to his attention—speaking words without knowledge (Job 42:3).
A final indication that Elihu is speaking for God is his theology, which is extraordinary, especially as it unfolds in chapters 34 and 35.
Job himself seems impressed with the compassionate entreaty of this young man, for he does not answer him. The empathy and sincerity of Elihu, his words of correction mingled with love, were perhaps a balm to Job compared to the accusations of the others. Some of this young man's thoughts may even remind Job of his own arguments and the light that had brought hope to his own soul. Elihu's picture of God is definitely different from the three friends.
If we have a problem some of the words Elihu spoke to Job, we may need to reconsider what God said to Job:
"Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind, and said: 'Who is this who darkens counsel By words without knowledge? Moreover the LORD answered Job, and said: 'Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it. Would you indeed annul My judgment? Would you condemn Me that you may be justified?'" (Job 38:1, 2; 40:1, 2, 8).
How does Job respond to the stern rebukes from God? He repents, affirming not only the words of God and Elihu, but also reminding us why Job was called a "blameless" man in the first place (Job 1:1).
James Rafferty

Raul Diaz

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Best Thing That Happened

God is good.  This means that everything He does is good.  When Job said that even if God killed him, he wouold trust God, it is possible that Job meant that the worst that could happen, if done by God it was the brst thing that could happen.  The following commentary, previously published, adresses this subject.

The Best Thing That Happened

When asked, "what's the best thing that ever happened to you?" how would you respond? After pondering for a time, some of you may answer, when I got this job", or when I got together with my new boyfriend (or girlfriend)." Others of you reading this might answer, "when I got married," "had my baby," or even "when I went on this fabulous trip." Answers that sound negative such as "when I had this accident," or "when I went through this particular trial" aren't going to be too forthcoming are they? Although, you may recognize that a period of trial facilitated the greatest period of growth in your life, it is unlikely that you would characterize that experience as "the best thing" that ever happened to you. Let's say that retrospectively you're aware that what was intended for evil ended up being for good in your life, and perhaps you've even observed that it boded well for the lives of others. Still, even then, it can be difficult to accept that negative trial (or trials) as the best thing that could have happened to you. You might see it as beneficial-- yes, but as good--no way. Are you then likely to see it as the best thing that could have happened? Sadly, it's unlikely. Why? It is our human nature to see things as they are temporally, not as what they are spiritually.  

Here's an example for you. A man slides on a patch of ice, fall on his knee and fractures it.  The injury from the fall leads to the discovery of a tumor on this man's knee cap.  An imprisoned family is plagued with lice.  This lice plague, in turn, kept the prison guards away from them.  The worse that could happen became the best thing.

For the disciples, the worst thing that could ever happen was that Jesus would be put to death by the ruling powers. His impending death was unfathomable to them. The subject was so frightening, that whenever Jesus spoke concerning it, they quarreled with each other about who would be the greatest in His (temporal) kingdom.  Their sizeable fears were activated at the prospect that never would their fondest dreams or goals for themselves or their nation be reached. Ultimately, Christ's death engaged even their doubts about His Messiahship. Christ had said to them to prepare them, "it's good for you that I go away, so you may receive the comforter (John 16:7)." Can you imagine being told that what you least want is best for you? Can you imagine what the disciples must have thought of Him? And yet, it was good that Christ die.  It was good that He go away. Sometimes the thing that we believe is the worst thing that could happen is the best that could happen.

The disciples did not understand that Christ's death "as the lamb slain" had been determined "from the foundation of the world." They did not understand the will of the Father, the scope, and nature of sin, nor its cure. Without the death of Jesus we would neither have communion with the Father and the Spirit, nor Salvation, nor the hope of the resurrection and life anew. In I Cor. 15:14-22, Paul elaborates on the concept of the validity of the resurrection, and what would occur if it were untrue.

I Corinthians 15:14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.
I Corinthians 15:15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we
have testified of God that He raised up Christ: whom He raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.
I Corinthians 15:16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:
I Corinthians 15:17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.
I Corinthians 15:18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.
I Corinthians 15:19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
I Corinthians 15:20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.
I Corinthians 15:21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.
I Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

Here Paul is saying that if Christ did not rise, our faith, preaching, the testimony of Him, and hope of life in Christ is futile. Worst of all, we are still in our sins, and all we have to look forward to is the second death which is the wage of sin. But thanks be to God who gave us the victory in our Lord Jesus Christ (II Cor. 15:54). As Sister White says, "Christ has conquered death, and led captivity captive. Men had looked upon death as a terrible thing; they had looked to the future with foreboding; but the resurrection of Christ from the dead changed the aspect of death" (E. G. White Notes, page 66). Friends, since Christ died and was resurrected our hope is real. Not only can we rise to life anew, but so can those whom we love who have died or will die in the Lord.

You know, Christ's death and resurrection gave us so much more than can be imagined. First, we can receive the Holy Spirit who will tell us of the future, guide us, teach and remind us of all things, convict us of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 14:26; 15:26; 16:7, 8, 13). Second, according to Hebrews 4:14 -16, we have intercession through Christ's mediation in the heavenly Sanctuary by Christ Himself who has been tempted in all points as we are yet, did not sin. Third, we have a home in a heavenly mansion with the Godhead, the heavenly host, and the 24 elders (John 14:1-3). And last, but not least we don't have to live a life of sin. Sin does not have to have power over us, for Objectively, our human nature was corporately in Christ and when He died to sin, so did we. Subjectively, when we are baptized into Jesus Christ, we are baptized into His death to sin. Subsequently, we are raised to life from the dead (dead in trespasses and sins-- Eph. 2:1, 5) like as Christ was raised up from the dead. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be destroyed that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from (the power, presence, and condemnation of) sin. For the wages of Sin is death, but the Gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:3-7, 23). Thank God for such a wonderful Saviour.  

Yes, sometimes the worst thing that could ever happen ends up being our choicest blessing. The Lord has said through His servant Paul in Romans 8:28, and Isaiah in Isaiah 29:11 respectively, 
" For we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose".
"For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end." 

Friends, many good promises, and experiences in righteousness have come to us through Christ's death, should we trample under foot this beautiful gift He's given us?

Raul Diaz & Maria Greaves-Barnes

Raul Diaz

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Issue of Vanity

Have you noticed how much Job used the pronoun I in his defense of himself.  He gave himself the credit that belonged to God.   Although sincere, Job had some vanity in his character.  The Lord used Job's suffering to pull the vanity out of Him.   The following commentary addresses this issue.

The Issue of Vanity

In January 1973 Singer-songwriter Carly Simon had a big hit on the radio, with the song, "You're So Vain." The song is about a broken hearted woman telling this man about how she feels about their relationship and him. The refrain goes like this:

"You're so vain, you probably think this song is about you
You're so vain, I'll bet you think this song is about you
Don't you? Don't you?"

According to the singer, the man believes himself the center of the universe. So much, that she thinks he would think the song is about him. Vain people are conceited, thinking themselves better than others, and thinking that without their presence or input things would not happen.

In the dictionary, the word vain means: overly proud of oneself, especially when concerning appearance, and or egotistical. Other definitions include: having little substance, pointless, futile, and useless. So the word vain does not only refer to people but things or actions. People talk about vain calories or doing something in vain, etc. Vanity is the quality or condition of being vain. Someone vain has vanity. Pursuing vain actions are considered vanity.

As the lesson says, the word translated as vanity from the Hebrew in Ecclesiastes is "hebel." Hebel means vapor, smoke or breath. Ecclesiastes 12:8 says, "Vanity of vanities, saith the preacher; all is vanity." It is no wonder the translators of the Bible decided to use vanity in this case. You see, smoke, breath, and vapor are related to air. And, we call anything this is full of air: empty. And empty is one definition of vanity. Although air or any gas state is matter - it has weight - it has no form. Also, air moves around. When we say something is full with something solid or liquid, It is because it is visible, and the likelihood of being the same matter again when we return to look at it is a lot higher than if it was just air. We can touch it. We can distinguish Smoke, breath, or vapor from the air, but we cannot touch it, and it will probably dissipate eventually, as it spread through the air.

Another aspect of this analogy is brevity. Smoke, breath, and vapor dissipate through the air pretty quickly. Sometimes slower than others, however, it will not stay forever. And, once it dissipates it will seem that it was never there. You may see it now, but in a few moments it will disappear and perhaps forever, and no one will remember it.

Lastly, is the issue of insignificance and meaninglessness. As long as the breath, smoke or vapor is concentrated in the same spot, there may have an impact and maybe a significant one. However, once dissipated, its presence will be insignificant if compared with the rest of the contents of air.

A vain person is proud of something that will disappear, in a short time, and in the end, will not matter. A vain pursuit is about is the same way. It will not accomplish for you the fulfillment you desired, in fact, this false achievement will not last long, and you will feel you wasted your time and effort; this is what the preacher was saying. The things of this world disappear, in a short period, and in the end, it will not matter that we pursued them and whether we succeed or not. Very few will remember.

How does this happen? And can we prevent it from happening? The following three passages from the book of Matthew quote Jesus answering question. Let us read,

Matthew 6:19-21
Matthew 6:19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal:
Matthew 6:20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

Matthew 6:33
Matthew 6:33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.

Matthew 16:26
Matthew 16:26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

What this world has to offer will be corrupted or stolen, and will lead to eternal death. What God has to offer can not be damaged or stolen, and leads to a righteous life, and eternal life in the Kingdom of God. A life of disobedience, refusing to listen to God is vanity. A life of a continual choosing to hear God's voice and heeding to His leading is profitable. Which one you choose is up to you.

Raul Diaz

Raul Diaz

Friday, November 11, 2016

The Grace of God Stands On the Edge of the Coin

The Grace of God Stands On the Edge of the Coin
Jargon is the vocabulary of a specialty.    It is the set of words that are used to talk about what they do within that field of specialty, also their tools, etc.  Take coin collector's for example, a person who studies and collects coins is a numismatist.  While we have never seen a tail on the back of a coin most coins do have a head. We call the head side the obverse, and the another side is the reverse.  Coins also have, among other things: rims, legends, fields, motto, mint mark, and edges.  The edge of the coin is the side edge. 
An old friend used a coin as an example to illustrate the Great Controversy.  He said, "The devil thought he had God on a 'Checkmate' when man sin.  He thought, 'if God kills man – according to the requirement of the Law - then He is just but not loving.  If on the contrary, God forgives man, then He does not follow His Law.'  Let's say that on the obverse of the coin is love and mercy and on the reverse of the coin are the law and justice.  When man sins, the coin is tossed in the air.  The Devil knew it had to be 'head or tail,' but to his surprise, the coin fell on the edge.  And, the coin has remained standing on its edge ever since." 
From the beginning of the world, God found a way to save man if man sinned.  John the Revelator says that the Lamb was "slain from the foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8).  So, "As soon as there was sin, there was a Saviour. Christ knew that He would have to suffer, yet He became man's substitute. As soon as Adam sinned, the Son of God presented Himself as surety for the human race."  Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1, p. 1084. God, out of His great love for His creation, decided not to let man die even if it meant to perish Himself.  So, in Christ, as the psalmist wrote, "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Psalm 85:10). 
The Father sent Christ to die for the World (John 3:16).  In this act, He shows love for mankind while at the same time keeping the requirements of the law.  Romans 6:23 declares that the wages of sin is death, and Hebrews 9:22 tells us that there is no remission of sins without the shedding of blood.  Christ fulfilled all of this.  All we need to be saved is fulfilled in Christ.  It is ours for the taking.  So now we are "…justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" Romans 3:24.  Paul adds in Romans 5,
Romans 5:14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam's transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.
Romans 5:15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.
Romans 5:16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.
We further know salvation is by grace, because "… God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8 KJV).   Christ did not wait for us to decision toward Him to die for us.  While we were sinners in enmity toward Him, God poured out heaven to save us.  Now, as we look at the cross and know its meaning and cost, we make a decision.  How do we respond to God's grace?  Are we grateful or are we unmoved by it?  The coin is about to fall on the reverse (tail) where God's justice and law are.  But, do not let fear motivate you.  God's grace comes out of His perfect love.    "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love" (1 John 4:18).  Let the cross fill you with God's perfect love, before it is too late.
Raul Diaz