Friday, January 16, 2015

When God feels far away

planet in black space
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Job 35:1-16

TO CHEW ON: "For you say, 'What advantage will it be to you? What profit shall I have, more than if I had sinned?' " Job 35:3

In this third speech of Elihu's, he answers two questions he has heard Job ask:
1] What is the value of virtue (Job 35:2-8)?
2] Why doesn't God answer the prayers of the afflicted (Job 35:9-16)?

I'm going to focus on Elihu's response to the first question.: "What is the value of virtue?" See Job's own phrasing of it in Job 21:15.

Elihu answers by establishing God's remoteness. He is distant, says Elihu, and thus untouched by human actions. But, Elihu has himself said earlier that God does interact with people (Job 33:10-11, 24-26).

The commentary writer elaborates on Elihu's mixed messages:
"By stressing God's transcendence, he has protected God from the actions of people. But the reasoning here contradicts his earlier claim that God reacts to the sins by punishment and discipline and to righteousness by reward. ... By suggesting that God is indifferent, Elihu comes close to Job's position of challenging his justice" - Asbury Bible Commentary - accessed via "Study This" on BibleGateway.

We too may sometimes side with Elihua here, feeling that what we do makes no difference to God; that He is above and beyond our puny existence. I love how Wayne Grudem tackles this issue in his Systematic Theology:
"The term often used to say that God is much greater than creation is the word transcendent. Very simply, this means that God is far "above" the creation in the sense that he is greater than the creation and he is independent of it. 
God is also very much involved in creation … The technical term used to speak of God's involvement in creation is the word immanent, meaning "remaining in" creation. The God of the Bible is no abstract deity removed from and uninterested in his creation. The Bible is the story of God's involvement with his creation and particularly the people in it" - Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 267.

God sending Jesus is evidence of that involvement—His literal skin in the game (John 1:14). Through Jesus we are intimately connected to Him, despite what our feelings say:
  • " 'Lo I am with you always…' " - Matthew 28:29.
  • " 'Neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand' " - John  10:28.
  • " 'Abide in Me and I in you' " - John 15:4.
  • "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life (nor angels, principalities powers etc.) shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" - Romans 8:38.

PRAYER: Dear God, I know the facts about Your presence. Help me to apply them to my life when my feelings say otherwise. Amen.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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