Like most Christians, I love the Bible. The problem is that we often don’t use it well.
We sometimes believe – and teach – that the Bible is a basically a collection of true facts about God and people and the world.
But to be faithful students of the Bible, we need to be more careful how we read and apply it.
Today’s example is a lovely passage of Scripture.
“Yet if you devote your heart to him
and stretch out your hands to him,
if you put away the sin that is in your hand
and allow no evil to dwell in your tent,
then, free of fault, you will lift up your face;
you will stand firm and without fear.
You will surely forget your trouble,
recalling it only as waters gone by.
Life will be brighter than noonday,
and darkness will become like morning.
You will be secure, because there is hope;
you will look about you and take your rest in safety.
You will lie down, with no one to make you afraid,
and many will court your favor.”
Good stuff, right? It’s like the perfect blend of the Psalms and the Proverbs.
There is a song based directly on this scripture that I really like.
There is a problem though.
The problem is that this passage is a quote from Zophar, one of Job’s three ‘friends.’
The three friends that come to try to ‘comfort’ Job once his faith is tested by removing all of the blessings in his life to see if he would still trust in God.
Job’s friends – including Zophar – had a locked down ‘theology of retribution.’ If you are faithful to God, God will take care of you and things will be good in your life.
On the flip side, if things are going wrong in life, you must have sinned and done something wrong to bring those consequences to bear.
Because Job’s life was falling apart around him, they were sure that he had sinned.
He must have, right?
God answers the question himself at the end of the book.
After the Lord had said these things to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has. You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.” Job 42
There we have it. What they said about God is not the truth.
In this case, if we proclaim the passage quoted above (Job 11:13-19) as God’s truth, we’d be wrong.
Yes, the Bible includes not only what we should believe, but what we should be careful about accepting as true.
It also corrects the idea that we always get what we deserve.
We need to be better students of the Bible.
It can make a real difference in our lives and in what we believe about God.