Cover to Cover
Stephen is a man who is full of faith and the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5). He is standing before his accusers. These Jewish religious leaders believe the old covenant based on the Law is the only religion God has for them. They aren’t hungry for more than what they have. They are protective of Judaism as they know it.
However, people who are hungry for more will find that Jesus has given a new covenant. He has also poured out the Holy Spirit to indwell and empower us. We see Stephen’s zeal for the Lord, and he’s not ashamed to share it. He spoke of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph, and in verses 20-43, Stephen speaks of Moses. He understands the old covenant and the Law, calling it to mind to the temple leaders.
Today, even Spirit-filled Christians can become sufficient in themselves and their understanding of spiritual matters. They are often blind to how they have become arrogant in their performance of Christian disciplines. They can be oblivious to how controlling and condemning they have become because of their rules-based lifestyle. They don’t realize how they push people farther from God instead of drawing them closer to His love and power. The religiously proud can get dogmatic about their beliefs, becoming opinionated, causing division and separation instead of working together in people who show and extend mercy. Perhaps they would never stone another Christian to death, but they can slander, argue and debate, they can sharply criticize, pull their support, try to manipulate their way into power, and try to gather others against you.
Every day when we come before God in prayer, let’s make sure we humble ourselves and receive His grace. Being gracious doesn’t mean we compromise holiness. We can speak the truth in love. We can patiently minister restoration to the broken and deliverance to the captive. It’s God in us, helping us to represent Him well and share His salvation message. Let’s be like Jesus and save the world rather than to condemn it!
When Job’s friends hear of Job’s loss, they come to him, not even able to recognize him at first. His once healthy, wealthy, and vibrant friend has quickly lost it all. His skin is covered in boils, and he is in extreme pain. The friends grieve with Job over his loss, taking 7 full days of silence by his side. Then the friends attempt to find reasons for Job’s sudden turn.
For the next 33 chapters, we will read about the discussions between Job and his four friends. They are Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu. Not once do these men inquire of God for the reason for their friend’s loss. There are three dialogues that Job has with his friends, then Job gives a final statement to his friends, and then Elihu challenges Job.
The first three friends all associate suffering with sin; thus, Job has sinned. They assume they know the ways of God without inquiring of Him. Eliphaz blames Job’s suffering on Job’s sin. Bildad believes Job is a hypocrite, pretending to be integrous, but certain he has a hidden character flaw. Zopher also assumes Job has sinned, even to say that he is most likely getting much less punishment than he deserves. Elihu, a younger man, tells Job he doesn’t have enough faith or humility.
Religiously proud people will lift themselves up as superior to the one they believe has sinned. The same is true today. A self-sufficient person will not inquire of God for understanding. We’ve all experienced some form of self-sufficiency because we’ve all sinned. We can relate to Job and his friends. At some point, most Christians have experienced ideas of self-sufficiency in consideration of what is right, having our religious opinions instead of pursuing God’s thoughts.
The first of 3 dialogues takes place in chapters 4-14. The first one to response to Job’s cry of despair is Eliphaz, stating that Job must be experiencing punishment for his sin. Eliphaz even claims to have had a vision of a spirit. Have you ever had someone pull the “God card” and say that God was was behind what they were saying when God wasn’t involved at all? This shows us that people can be wrong, no matter how much authority they seem to have.
In chapter 6, Job responds to Eliphaz, maintaining that he has not done anything for which to be punished. In verse 14, Job says, “to him who is afflicted, kindness should be shown by his friend.” In verse 27, Job says, “you undermine your friend.” May we show mercy to the hurting instead of being opinionated and judgmental.