Friday, October 28, 2016

Lesson 5. Curse the Day

Sabbath School Today

With the 1888 Message Dynamic

The Book of Job

Lesson 5. Curse the Day


What is the "curse" for Job? What is the "curse" for Christ? If we can understand the latter "curse," we will be closer to appreciating the 1888 message as a shared atonement with Christ rather than a vicarious atonement (as if He were like us, apparently but not in reality). Understanding Christ's shared atonement is the key to why we suffer; this theme will be developed into next week's lesson.

Job did not curse God as Satan said he would and as his wife exhorts him to do, but he comes right to the brink and "cursed his day" of birth (Job 3:1).

At the root of Job's existence is a God-forsaken day that is night. Life is so painful that Job wishes the roots of his existence had been recaptured by death and darkness, that he had never existed in the presence of God. He wishes God would rewind the tape of creation and undo the part that led to his existence (vs. 5).

The deep reason for Job's unrest is that he cannot understand his sufferings. He cannot understand why a believer, a man of godliness and piety, suffers with such mind-numbing intensity. This inexplicable trouble shakes the foundations of his moral and ordered universe. It is for this reason he cannot and will not rest until he has found some resolution to this cosmic question (vs. 20).

Job feels instinctively that he ought to matter, but everything about his sufferings suggests that he doesn't. His assumption, indeed his past conviction, is that he lived life in covenant relationship with the Almighty, whom he feared with loving reverence. And he believed that the Almighty looked on him with love. If this is so, Job deduces that he ought, as a human being in the image of God and a believer in relationship with God, to have a derivative significance (Job 7:12).

Job considers himself a penitent sinner who understands the meaning of the sacrifices that he performs. He believes in a God who forgives those who repent and believe. Job thinks that he should not be punished for his sins since the sacrifices he performs have taken away his sin (vs. 21).

Rest is predicated on cosmic order, a creation in which there are proper boundaries, in which virtue is rewarded and vice punished, in which there is justice, and in which goodness triumphs. Job longs to share that rest with God. At the moment his experience is the polar opposite.

Job feels like a man on a life-support machine who longs for it to be switched off. In Sheol at last would be peace. Job is obsessed with death as the only way out of trouble because life is so futile.

Job cannot rest with things as they are. He will not rest. In his weakness, misery, and distress there is yet an energy within Job that surges and drives him to discover the God who has treated him like this. Although he says he has no hope, his restlessness betrays him. A restless man is not a defeated man; a troubled man is not a hopeless man resigned to his fate. If there really is no hope, there is no point asking "Why?" (vs. 20).

Job is protesting that the Almighty is attacking him as if he were the personification of supernatural evil. A terrible picture of God that follows, as the hostile Watcher from whom Job cannot escape (Job 7:12).

Even when Job does manage to get to sleep, he cannot escape. He goes to bed thinking he can get a moment's rest, but God sends him nightmares (vs. 14). The pressure is unbearable. Job would prefer to be strangled to death (Job vs. 15). If I am as insignificant to you as I appear to be, why will you not leave me alone? (vs. 16).

"If I sin, what do I do to you, you watcher of mankind?" "Sure, I sin, I am not perfect. But does my sin really justify this constant unrelenting 'hostile attention'? Why are you to me like Big Brother, picking on me, making me 'your mark'?" (Do you wonder sometimes if you are insignificant in God's great economy of salvation?)

Because there seems to be no answer from Heaven, Job goes on to a desperate and paradoxical plea to be God-forsaken. He says to God in essence, "Leave me alone!" (vs. 16).

Have you ever read a book, How to Get Along with Someone Who Lives in Hell? No, I haven't either; but I wish one were written. There are miserable people who make everyone around them unhappy (spouses, neighbors, relatives). They don't understand how God loves them personally. Therefore they feel like God has forsaken them. That's what it means to "live in hell," for hell is God-forsaken-ness. Naturally, their feeling dark and miserable gets expressed in their orneriness.

They are not in hell, for since the world began only one Man has ever been there. The real thing hasn't come yet. Hell comes only at the end of the 1000 years of Revelation 20.

Job's loneliness foreshadowed a greater loneliness. His darkness likewise anticipates a deeper darkness. Two thousand years ago another blameless believer was in deep darkness, hanging on a cross at midday. Deeper than the darkness of night. Deeper even than Job's darkness. And from his lips the cry of dereliction, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" (Mark 15:34). In some strange way, because Job's darkness of soul foreshadows the darkness of the cross there is within it hope of rescue.

The bottom-line root of all fear, even beneath the conscious surface, is that of being "forsaken" of God, of being lost, of "hell" itself, what the Bible calls the ultimate "curse of the law" (Gal. 3:13).

It's our universal problem. But, as the Son of God, Christ has endured and conquered that same fear, delivering us from it, "being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangeth on a tree." That is from Deuteronomy 21:23, where Moses said that anyone who ends up on a tree is "accursed of God." Jesus was utterly sinless, but He was "made … to be sin for us, who knew no sin" (2 Cor. 5:21).

His sufferings on the cross were not merely physical pain. In total reality (no mind-numbing anesthetic) the Son of God, divine yet human, felt the ultimate horror: "Why hast Thou forsaken Me?" That's why Peter said He went to hell to save us (Acts 2:31). No greater pain of soul was possible. He suffered one hundred percent "the wages of sin, [which] is death," the real kind (Rom. 6:23).

So tell whoever thinks he or she is in hell that it's not true. No matter how miserable one may be, there is a way to get out of that and into the sunlight of heaven on earth.

Realize that when Jesus cried out in His agony on the cross, "Why have You forsaken Me?" He was not mouthing some empty phrases that His script called for--He was telling the truth. He felt totally forsaken by God. His heart was broken.

He felt to the full what it means to be cursed by God, for Galatians 3:13 tells us He totally felt the curse: "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree."

When a depressed, unhappy person can grasp the reality of what Christ experienced for him or her, a bond is established between the two souls--Christ and the sinner. In that bond, one identifies with Christ. Then what happens is, "I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me" (Gal. 2:20).

Welcome to heaven on earth. Faith is a heart-identity with Him. We become corporately one with Him by faith. His concerns become ours; His experience becomes ours by oneness of heart with Him. Thus we "receive the reconciliation" (Rom. 5:11).

Sinful human beings learn to believe, to "overcome even as [He] overcame" (Rev. 3:20). They identify with Him as a bride identifies with her bridegroom, become "one" with Him in heart. "Love [agape] casteth out fear" (1 John 4:18). So, in all the bad news of our day we find an avenue to good news.

--Paul E. Penno

Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson will be posted on the Internet later this week. Please check his YouTube channel.

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Raul Diaz