April 14 - 20
Grace Under Pressure Noah and Job
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Gen. 6:22; Job 1.
MEMORY TEXT: "Then Job answered the Lord: 'I know that thou canst do all things, and that no purpose of thine can be thwarted' " (Job 42:1, 2, RSV).
KEY THOUGHT: No matter how long, intense, or varied our trials, faith in God can provide the resources for experiencing what has been called "grace under pressure." Perhaps we've all, in one way or another, known what "grace under pressure" means.
ANCIENT STORIES WITH MODERN MESSAGES. Noah-and-the-ark is thought of as almost one word. Likewise, Job-and-his-trials are four words that melt into one. So compelling are the ark and trial portions of their lives that we think of little else when we think of these two men; and no wonder, because those incidents are about the only portions of their lives the Bible dwells upon.
Although Noah lived 950 years, the mention of his name generally conjures up ark imagesscoffers, animals in pairs, a rainbow, a dove, an olive leaf, and water (a lot of it). Likewise, Job lived many years after his tribulations, yet the mention of his name compels exclusively suffering images-critical friends, a carping wife, loathsome sores, dirty ashes, verbal battles, and a God who speaks out of a whirlwind.
No matter how ancient, the stories of Noah and Job and their struggles and challenges still resonate today. However different our circumstances from theirs, we still struggle with the same issues of faith, hope, and grace in a world that, at times, can seem wired against all three.
Settings involve the historical backgrounds, the facts about when, where, and who, along with the philosophical environments in which the stories occur. For the biographies of Noah and Job, the settings must be understood before the plot makes sense.
The Bible gives background information for Noah's story: "The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Gen. 6:5, RSV); for Job's narrative: "Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them" (Job 1:6, RSV). How do these two texts help explain the stories' plots?
The fascinating thing about both these stories is that, however much of the drama takes place on the earth, heaven sets the real background. Genesis states more than once that God (who dwells in heaven) saw what was going on and decided to do something about it. In the book of Job, there is a conflict between God and Satan-in heaven-that winds up on earth. What's taking place on earth has its origins in what's taking place in heaven. In fact, only by understanding that heavenly background can the earthly stories make better sense. What this reality shows is that there is often an unseen, cosmic dimension behind things that we can see and experience ourselves, a dimension that in many ways provides the best explanation for what's going on here. The Bible helps reveal to us this cosmic dimension.
|Many people believe that the book of Job was written by Moses and that it was the first book of the Bible ever written, even before Genesis. The book of Job gives one of the clearest explanations about how evil could exist in a world created by an all-loving, all-powerful God. It makes a lot of sense for Job to be the first book because, for many earnest people, the question of evil raises the first and often the hardest question to be answered about the existence of God. Job helps answer that question (even if it still leaves many unanswered).|
|How could a knowledge of the cosmic battle between Christ and Satan help us deal with the struggles we face? Can a knowledge of this unseen reality help give meaning to trials that might, otherwise, seem so meaningless? If so, how?|
Genesis 6:3 indicates that the Lord would give humanity a 120-year grace period. Then "probation" would closeand the world would be destroyed by a flood. Only those who would accept this present-truth message of "salvation," offered in that particular context, would be saved.
Scripture doesn't say exactly how long Noah worked on the ark during that 120-year period. Considering the massive size of the structure, the amount of time must have been immense, even for those who, like Noah, measured their lives by centuries. However long the actual building took, it must have been a real testing time for Noah's faith. "By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith" (Heb. 11:7, emphasis supplied).
|"In Noah's day the inhabitants of the old world laughed to scorn what they termed the superstitious fears and forebodings of the preacher of righteousness. He was denounced as a visionary character, a fanatic, an alarmist. 'As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. 'Men will reject the solemn message of warning in our day, as they did in Noah 's time. "Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 308.|
Noah had to remain faithful for other time periods as well.
How long was he in the ark before water fell? (Gen. 7:10).
How long did the Flood continue? (Gen. 7:17).
How long was it before the waters abated? (Gen. 8:3).
Though these other time periods were much shorter than the many years Noah worked on the ark, it would be easy to imagine that Noah's faith must have come under intense pressure during these periods as well.
|Consider some of the other long time periods in the Bible, such as the 1260 years of Daniel 7 or the 70 years of Babylonian captivity. What can these long time periods teach us about enduring "lengthy" trials in our own lives?|
Pain comes in many shapes. Match the types of torment with the text-economic, emotional, parental, physical, social, and spiritual:
________ 'The oxen were plowing and the asses feeding beside them; and the Sabeans . . . slew the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you' "(Job 1:14, 15, RSV).
_______ 'Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine . . . and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you' " (Job 1:18, 19, RSV).
_______"And when they saw him from afar, they did not recognize him" (Job 2:12, RSV).
_______"There is no umpire between us, who might lay his hand upon us both" (Job 9:33, RSV).
_______"'Why didst thou bring me forth from the womb? Would that I had died before any eye had seen me'" (Job 10:18, RSV).
_______"My kinsfolk and my close friends have failed me" (Job 19: 14, RSV).
It has been said that times of intense suffering don't develop character but just reveal it. Explain why you agree or disagree.
Job's experience is a reflection, however exaggerated, of all fallen humanity. All, like Job, have had their positive moments; all, like Job, have had their moments of utter despair. However intense Job's sufferings, all have gone through something similar. And, no doubt, even people of faith, people who love God and believe in the wonderful promise of salvation in Christ, have, like Job, questioned the providence of God who has allowed these trials to come. What Job shows is that questioning is part of what faith is all about.
|Carla, a devout Christian, lost both her husband and her only child in a house fire. In the midst of her anguish, she had some moments of raw doubt about even the existence of God. Why is such a reaction normal, and what can we learn from the story of Job to help someone like her?|
Noah's persistent faith earned him the title of "a herald of righteousness" (2 Pet. 2:5, RSV). Job's persistent faith allowed him to proclaim, "I know that my Redeemer lives" (Job 19:25, RSV).
For Noah to be a "herald of righteousness," he had to be preaching about the righteousness of Christ, which is the righteousness of God Himself, the only righteousness that can save us. "But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe" (Rom. 3:21, 22; see also Rom. 10:3-6; Rom. 3:17). Job's words affirming the existence of His Redeemer (Job 19:25) show, too, that he had some understanding of salvation and that it is obtained not by man but by God in behalf of man. "This text represents one of the OT revelations of God as man's redeemer, a profound truth that was fully revealed to men in the person and mission of Jesus Christ."The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 3, p. 549.
Why, especially in times of trial, is it crucial to understand that our hope of salvation exists not in ourselves but only in Christ?
Anyone who has ever walked with God knows that the closer we come to Christ, the more sinful we'll appear in our own eyes. Indeed, anyone who has experienced the reality of the human condition and the saving grace of Christ will understand the biblical truth that "All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). Our sinful condition can be a terrible source of personal discouragement. This is particularly true for a person going through a trial when the tendency is to think that his or her own sin has brought about this trial to begin with. How important, then, especially in hard times, that we ground our hope not in ourselves or in any righteousness found in us but only in Christ and His righteousness, which is credited to us by faith.
|What other ways (besides what's mentioned above) can an understanding of our righteousness being found only in Christ, and not in ourselves or our works, be a great source of comfort for a Christian going through a hard time?|
"And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every bird of the air, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered. Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you green plants, I give you everything' " (Gen. 9:1-3).
Not all biographers can write happy endings and still be true to the fact. And though one can seriously question whether the word happy is the right word to describe the endings of these stories, it is true that after their lengthy and intense trials, both Noah and Job enjoyed several forms of vindication.
Compare these types of vindication for Job with the types of trials he endured (see Tuesday's lesson):
_______ "The Lord said 'for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has' "(Job 42:7, RSV).
_______ "Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before. . . " (Job 42:11, RSV).
_______ "Fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she-asses" (Job 42:12, RSV).
_______ "He had also seven sons and three daughters" (Job 42:13, RSV).
_______ "And Job died, an old man, and full of days" (Job 42:17, RSV).
Noah, however, found vindication in another way: The Flood that he had warned about for so long finally came, exactly as he had said. His faith, enduring years of taunts, ridicule, and maybe even his own moment of doubt (he was, after all, human) was radically vindicated. He lived to see the results of living and acting by faith, not by sight.
Noah and Job both lived long enough to see their trials come to a "happy" ending. Not all those who go through trials have the same experience, at least in this life. Why, then, must our ultimate hope of vindication not rest in this life? When and where will vindication finally come?
FURTHER STUDY: Noah, Job, and Us. Read the book of Job in poetic format, the RSV, for example. Also read about the three great races that sprang from Noah's three sons (Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 117,118).
SUMMARY: Noah and Job survived a variety of very long and very intense trials. Some of the most difficult times involved their being misunderstood and. consequently, maligned by those who should have been supporters. A persistent faith kept them clinging to God's grace under the most severe of pressures.
J. H. Zachary
Warren Uziah lives in his wife's family village in North New Georgia, Solomon Islands. Although he comes from a strong Protestant background, Uziah had recently become interested in his wife's religion, Seventh-day Adventism.
Uziah decided to visit his father, who is chief in another village. Before he left he asked his mother-in-law for some books and literature to take along to share in his village. She gave him some copies of The Desire of Ages, Steps to Christ, and The Great Controversy, as well as some magazines and tracts.
During his visit Uziah gave the books and tracts to people who seemed interested. And when he returned home, he gave e his mother-in-law a list of people who wanted to take Bible studies by correspondence. She happily enrolled them in the Voice of Prophecy course.
One person who received a book from Uziah was his cousin, Ron Kanga. As Kanga began reading the book, he discovered several new ideas that caught his attention. The book gave him a clearer picture of God's plan for the universe and for his own life. By the time he finished reading the book, his life was changed.
Kanga was so excited by what he had discovered that he began visiting people to share what he had learned. He began studying the Bible with several of his friends and relatives. Soon he was studying regularly with 20 people in the village. Sometimes his studies lasted until long after midnight.
Kanga wanted to be baptized. He knew' that the book that had changed his life was published by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, so he contacted the nearest mission and asked for someone to come and baptize him. A pastor came to visit him and question him about his knowledge of Bible truth. Kanga and his wife were baptized late in 1998.
Kanga told the pastor that several of the people he was studying with in his village would soon be ready for baptism as well. The pastor asked Kanga what he was using for Bible study materials. Kanga answered simply, "Just these." And he held up his Bible and The Great Controversy. The pastor is confident that with Kanga's zeal, soon his village will have an Adventist congregation.
J. H. Zachary is coordinator for international evangelism for The Quiet Hour and a special consultant for the General Conference Ministerial Association.
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