Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Power of God, Who Wants it? Job? Gandalf?

This morning I was teaching Bible Study at my congregation on the book of Job.  What a study this has been!  If you want an in depth look at the human condition and human nature Job is the place to look.  During our study this morning we were reading about God's final conversation with Job in chapter 40.  In that chapter (as well as chapters 38-39) God is offering the final word on the discussions that have taken place throughout the book of Job.  God is especially addressing the moments where Job has seen fit to challenge God himself.  One such incident came in Job 30 where he says:
"God has cast me into the mire, and I have become like dust and ashes. I cry to you for help and you do not answer me; I stand, and you only look at me. You have turned cruel to me; with the might of your hand you persecute me. (Job 30:19-21)"

 Job is so frustrated with what has happened to him, and the lack of answers he is getting that he accuses God of having turned cruel to him and persecuting him.  Of course, God was at work through all of this, not turning cruel though, and God's perspective came in the Job 40 passages we read today.  Part of the response looked like this: 
"Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right? Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his? “Adorn yourself with majesty and dignity; clothe yourself with glory and splendor. Pour out the overflowings of your anger, and look on everyone who is proud and abase him. Look on everyone who is proud and bring him low and tread down the wicked where they stand. Hide them all in the dust together; bind their faces in the world below. Then will I also acknowledge to you that your own right hand can save you. (Job 40:7-14)"
God points out to Job that though His ways are not fully understood, and even though Job sees God's ways as being cruel to Him, the fault does not lay with God.  In truth, we simply cannot understood the wisdom of all God's ways.   When they don't make sense to us we have to accept God's promise, as He tells us in Romans 8:28, "we know that for those who love God all things work together for good."  

Having come across these passages from Job in our discussions in recent weeks this led us to an interesting discussion.  The temptation before us is to think that if we had God's power, we would do things differently. Indeed, that's how we think.  If I could control the scope of my life and my tolerance threshold for suffering I would better say what I deserve.  Yet these thoughts are full of disastrous implications.  Can you imagine what would happen if any one of us were to have God's power?

Well a wise wizard once had this chance and he wisely turned it down.  If you recall a scene early on in The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien it finds Gandalf the wizard and Frodo the hobbit coming to an understanding that Frodo possesses the one ring; a ring of immense power (and evil).  As Frodo begins to understand what Gandalf is saying about the potential of this ring, and the wickedness of those who are looking for it, he insists Gandalf the wizard take the ring.  Here is how the discussion continues in the movie version of Fellowship:
Gandalf: "You cannot offer me this Ring!"Frodo: "I'm giving it to you!"Gandalf: "Don't tempt me Frodo! I dare not take it. Not even to keep it safe. Understand Frodo, I would use this Ring from a desire to do good. But through me, it would wield a power too great and terrible to imagine."
Gandalf's response has always struck me.  Surely a wise, benevolent, kind wizard such as Gandalf could take this ring of power and do great things with it. Not so.  He even points out he would use it from a desire to do good.  "But through me" he says, "it would wield a power too great and terrible to imagine."   Power is like that with us as sinful human beings.  Many, if not most, might seek to use power, in whatever form we have it, out of a desire to do good.  But through us, that is, because we are sinful, power can bring about terrible things.  And its safe to say that with the more power we have the more likely it is to bring about evil. 

If we were ever to be instilled with the power of God our own selfishness would quickly take over and we would begin to mold the world to our own benefit and in our image, which is not a good thing.  Thankfully, Job was never given this power, and neither will we.  Though Job long wondered about the meaning of his sufferings and the purposes of God in it, and we do too, I am thankful that knowing God's promises of love and forgiveness we can be comforted that even through our own suffering, and as we bear our cross, we have a beautiful end coming to it all through faith in Jesus Christ.  

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