Face to Face

Face to Face

“I hope to see you shortly and we shall speak face to face”

3 John 14 (see also 2 John 12)

Letters and emails are terribly impersonal and can often be misunderstood. The reader is inclined to read their own thoughts and circumstances into the letter received. It can also be difficult to convey a message clearly on the phone. John had a message for his readers that he did not want misunderstood so he wanted to speak to them face to face. There have been many times that I have gone out of my way to speak to someone face to face because I didn’t want to risk confusion that may arise from a letter.

As we read the Bible we observe that the Lord appeared to quite a few men face to face at times when He wanted to communicate important information. He appeared to Abraham on several occasions in the process of making and confirming the Covenant. Each time more information was given and/or affirmed. He also met with Jacob face to face before he was permitted to re-enter the Promised Land (Genesis 32:30).

Moses met the Lord face to face on several occasions beginning at the burning bush (Exodus 3:6). He was the only one who could communicate with the Lord after Israel’s rebellion and he spoke with the Lord face to face (Exodus 33:11). Before the conquest of the Promised Land Joshua met the Lord face to face (Joshua 5:14) and so did Gideon prior to battle (Judges 6:22).

The Lord promised He would speak with Israel face to face when they are restored to the Promised Land (Ezekiel 20:35). When Jesus returns and establishes His earthly kingdom He will fulfil this (Ezekiel 39:28-29). Others saw visions of the Lord that caused them to fall on their faces before Him (e.g. Daniel 10:5-6).

Job knew that one day he would see the Lord face to face (Job 19:25-26). The apostle Paul had that expectation as well (1 Corinthians 13:12) and John confirms that all believers will see Jesus face to face (Revelation 22:4). When we have an important message for someone we prefer to give it face to face. The Lord speaks to us through His word, affirmed by the indwelling Holy Spirit, but to convey the Gospel to an unsaved person the Lord’s way is (generally) to send His messenger to speak face to face. This remains the most effective way. Jesus was the first such messenger; and if we are His, we are now His messengers.

Our View of God Challenged

“Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?”

Job 2:10

Job had lost all his possessions. His ten children had been murdered. While in this destitute state he also had his health taken from him. His view of God was challenged to its core even further when his wife abandoned any notion that God was good or loved him and told him to “curse God and die.”

It is not uncommon to hear unbelievers challenge the goodness and love of God by pointing to the many tragedies and the horrendous suffering occurring around the world. We are particularly challenged when it is close to home. The years of severe drought in vast areas of eastern Australia, bush fires and floods in other places have served to bring a lot of pain and suffering to many people. What is particularly overpowering in emotional pain is when crops are near harvest and they are wiped out by flood, fire or frost. Months of hard work, financial expense and high expectations wiped out in a moment. Christians who experience this would have a strong sense of how Job felt.

In such a situation our view of God is severely challenged. We may be inclined to doubt God’s goodness and His love in such times but the remedy and response is readily available when we reflect on the cross of Jesus. John wrote, “By this we know [God’s kind of] love, because He laid down His life for us” (1 John 3:16). Paul wrote, “God demonstrates His own [kind of] love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Job did not understand why he was enduring such pain and loss. His friends made matters even worse and more confusing. But even though he was at a loss as to why he was in this situation he was not at a loss as to the nature of God. “In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong” (Job 1:22) and “In all this Job did not sin with his lips” (Job 2:10).

Paul wrote, “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” And, “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:18, 28). God’s aim is to conform us to the image of His Son (v 29). What we experience is the expression of God’s goodness and love to achieve that end even though it may be painful at times.

Enduring Suffering

“In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong?” Job 1:22

It appears that some people think of Job as one who had great patience. This seems to underestimate by quite a long way what he actually endured. Theodore Epp’s book on Job is entitled “Job: A man tried as gold.” In this title he expresses the fact that Job suffered not because of sin but in order to draw him more intimately into fellowship with God. Having the benefit of hindsight in the revelation of God we know why he suffered but Job didn’t know why at the time.

His friends came to comfort him with their well intentioned exhortations and their insistence that Job confess his grievous sin and repent of it. Instead of comforting their friend they made his misery and agony all the greater because there was no sin of which to repent. They attempted to counsel Job but because their theology was incorrect they were giving very unhelpful counsel.

All Job’s children had died along with their families – possibly including grandchildren. Now his “friends” were accusing him of being responsible due to some sin of which they had no knowledge but they were sure Job was hiding. Job was also accused of not allowing God to search his heart when in fact he had sat silently before God for seven days just for that purpose. No one stood with him. Even his wife told him to give up and drop dead.

The theology of Job’s friends seems to suggest that they thought that God only allows evil doers to suffer. Such is not the case and we need to be careful that we don’t even inadvertently think so. After all, what wrong did Jesus do? What wrong did the prophets of the Old Testament do? What wrong did John the Baptist do? What wrong did Paul and the other apostles do?

It is possible that we might use that way of thinking to justify our inaction in helping others who are in poverty, pain or some other kind of suffering. It eases our conscience if we think that they must in some way deserve it – except when it us ourselves who are suffering. One of Job’s friends told him that even the severe agony that he was experiencing was less than he deserved. That is of course true for him and all of us but thanks to the cross of Jesus we have been forgiven and we will not receive the judgment we deserve.

The opposite is true as well. We must not accuse God of being unfair or that His motives in allowing pain and suffering are wrong. No one suffered more or experienced pain and agony more than the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross and that was for our benefit, not His. Anything we may suffer is only a taste of what He endured.

The book of Job gives us a reason why righteous people go through suffering, trials and tribulations, some very severe, and it also goes some way to answering the question of why evil seems to prosper. We must always keep the eternal perspective before us. We won’t see total justice in this world but we can be assured by God’s own word that justice will be done for everyone. Calvary’s cross screams that fact out.

Darkness Turns to Dawning

“I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes.” Job 42:5, 6

When Job spoke these words to the Lord he was coming out of the darkest place. He had lost all his material possessions and all ten children. He lost his bodily health and was destitute. His wife turned against him and his friends falsely accused him. The young men who had previously looked up to him now mocked him.

Job had always done what he believed was right before the Lord and that is attested to in the first verse of the book. He doesn’t claim to be without sin but blameless because he confessed known sin and offered the appropriate offerings for himself and his family. God also attests to Job’s godly living (1:8).

Job had spent seven days in silence allowing God to search his heart. His friends insisted that he must have done some great sin. Job expresses his frustration at not understanding why he should be enduring such a horrific episode in his life but he still sticks with his faith in the Lord. Even if he should die in the present circumstance he knows that he will rise again and see God his Redeemer face to face (19:25, 26).

All Christians will suffer tribulation at various times during their lives (John 16:33) but some will experience this place of greater darkness at least once in their lives. It is darkness because all knowledge seems futile and all understanding seems empty. It is a time of extreme aloneness when no one else but Jesus can comfort and He seems distant. We will either come out sweeter in fellowship with the Lord or bitter against Him. How we come out of the dark place is determined by how we go in. The dark period will reveal what was already there and multiply it. Sweet will be sweeter; the self righteous will be more bitter.

We can only see as much of God as He chooses to reveal and only when He so chooses. Job had heard of God and His ways and, as a result put his trust in Him to deliver and keep him. For many Christians this is a similar experience. They have been born of God, know and trust the truth about who Jesus is and what He has done for them on the cross. Then they are taken into a dark place where that faith is sorely tested.

For Job and for Christians who endure the dark place, they will see God in an indescribable and inexplicable way. They will know they have seen God. The evidence that follows such a revelation of God is a greater realisation of the sinfulness of their fallen nature. This will produce confession and repentance. This is the sweet place where Job came and so will Christians who truly trust the Lord. For them the light that follows the darkness is glorious indeed; “now my eyes see You.”

It is evident that some Christians do end up bitter with God after such testing. This is seen in their attitude to serving the Lord Jesus and is a revelation of what was already in their heart before the test but is now multiplied.

We cannot engineer the dark place in timing or manner. The Lord will do so without warning, at the right time, in the right way and individually tailored. Whether we come out more bitter or sweeter will depend on the sweetness of our fellowship with Him before the darkness came.

A Place Prepared

“I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3)

It appears that the place we call heaven is seen by many people a bit like they see Father Christmas. We know he isn’t real but it makes the children happy. People will often speak of heaven in that way to children regarding a dead pet or loved one. Saying that a loved pet or person has gone to heaven somehow brings comfort to the child and relief to the parent. For the unbelieving parent it is an escape from a horrible reality for which they have no answer to offer their child. For some, there may be a vague hope that their loved one has found peace. R.I.P. may appear on many tombstones and monuments but it is probably more often wishful thinking than reality.

For the one who has trusted Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sin and a new life sourced in Him there is a sure expectancy of heaven. God has not chosen to give us a detailed description of heaven but He has given some information.

In the words of Jesus stated at the head of this article Jesus informs us that heaven is with Him and it is a place especially prepared for us to co-habit with Him. The apostle Paul wrote the same thing like this, “We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Heaven is being with Jesus.

Since we are to be with Jesus forever in a place He has prepared, has God revealed anything about this place? Yes He has and it is in the Bible.

Ultimately, but not immediately, God will create a new earth on which we will have our home (Revelation 21:1). This will be a physical earth as we have now but without the corruption sin brought. It has to be physical because we are told that we will rise in physical bodies (1 Corinthians 15) and that Jesus rose in a physical body. The new earth is described in physical terms.

Jesus Christ came to redeem the world including the physical realm (Romans 8:20-22). He will bring about that which He intended in the original Creation, namely, God dwelling with men. Throughout the Bible God reveals His desire to make His home with the one and only being He created in His own image (Genesis 1:26).

Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, He will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (John 14:23). This is the fulfilment of God’s plan in redemption but it is much more than both Father and Son indwelling believers by the Holy Spirit now. It is also prophetic, speaking of that time when God will dwell with redeemed people on the new earth (Revelation 21:22, 23).  Job saw that day when he said, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; and after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25-27). In this passage we see that Job believed that his body would physically die and that in a new resurrected physical body he would see God in a physical body. Through the eyes of faith he saw the incarnate Son of God born, crucified and risen and himself raised and in God’s presence.

Light Will Come

“Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” (Job 2:10)

Job was a man who walked with God and, like all of us, had limited understanding of God. How could a finite created being understand an infinite Creator? None of us know what lies around the corner in our lives. We may think we know, but expectations can be dashed in a moment. Job had no idea that his life would go through such extraordinary grief, sorrow and pain as a result of a conversation between God and Satan. God did not ask Job’s permission to do this and neither will He ask us for permission for the experiences He will bring into our lives for the purpose of enhancing our intimacy with Him. Job knew his Heavenly Father and trusted Him even though he had no idea why this tragedy had come his way or for what purpose. Everything, children, material wealth, the ability to work and the support of his wife were taken from him.

In chapter three we read Job’s first words after seven days of silence. He wished he had never been born or that he had died at birth. The agony of losing his children whom he loved was such inner pain that he wished he had never had to bear it. However, we should notice that Job rejected the suggestion of his wife to kill himself to end his suffering. The reason for this is that he was no longer suffering over the loss of his children but over the lack of understanding of the reason why. Yes, he misses his children and he loves his children but he would see them again. It was the immediate shock of the loss that was so painful. He now needed time to come to the place of resting in God but for that his confused mind would need understanding.

Many Christians have the mistaken and unbiblical notion that if we are faithful to the Lord we will be healthy, wealthy, wise and happy. Such is not the case, and indeed this is not God’s will for us. It is in times of grief, sorrow and loss that we are more sensitive to eternal things and we should pray that God would get his way at these times and in the process give us understanding of who He is.

Job never prayed to be made well or to have material wealth again. His concern was to ensure nothing was between himself and God. His friends agreed with that in principle but were very wrong in their idea of why Job was suffering. When these things happen we can follow Job’s example and seek the answer from the Lord. We need to be careful about listening to friends. Job’s friends and his wife would have turned him against God and away from the will of God. They confused him even more concerning the nature of God and the way He relates to His people.

At the right time, when His work has been done in our heart, mind and will, the Lord will give us understanding.

We would do well to note the focus of the prayer the Lord gave to His disciples which at no time asks for health, wealth and happiness. It is not “me” focussed,  but focussed on God: His will, His glory, His kingdom.

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.

For Yours is the kingdom
and the power and the glory forever.


A Yearning Heart

“We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8)

We too can have the same confidence as the Apostle Paul when we truly believe from the heart that we shall rise from the grave. Job expressed it most clearly when he said, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and He shall stand at last on the earth; after my skin is destroyed, this I know, that in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself and my eyes shall behold and not another” (Job 19:26, 27). Note the “I know” repeated.

How may one have such confidence? It can only come when the Father reveals it to us just as He did to Peter regarding the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:17). An unsaved person can never have this confidence. They may hope to rise and may even believe it is what the Bible teaches but they can never have the knowledge that they will rise as Job expressed. Job knew it as fact not a mere hope.

Jesus rebuked His disciples several times for their inadequate faith when faced with the normal tests of life that come. But even in the test faith is intended to grow just as it did for Job. The reason the Lord’s brings tests and trials our way are to reveal where we are in our walk of faith and to develop that faith further.

Satan would have us interpret our failures with finality and that we should give up trying. The first part of his accusation is false and should be renounced for the lie it is. The second part, though meant to discourage us has some truth in it. Perhaps we have been trying in the strength of the flesh instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to be our strength.

Yes, we may believe but without the special revelation of the Father, through the Word of God witnessed to by the Holy Spirit, we will never be as certain as Job. Do we really believe that absence from our body will really be our presence with the Lord? To be able to proclaim this with confidence we need to be refreshed in this truth by God’s Word and His Spirit from time to time.

Easter is a good time for deep reflection on this reality as is each time we meet for the Lord’s Table.

When a loved one passes to be with the Lord, we are tested in our belief that absent from this body of believers is present with all the body of believers who have gone on before. The test is so that we will be reaffirmed in that reality and be as Job who missed his first ten children and longed to see the Lord: “How my heart yearns within me” (Job 19:27).

Four Generations

“Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?”

Job 2:10

It is perhaps more customary on Mothers’ Day to focus on mothers in the Bible who came through with “flying colours.” However, as with men, not many match their performances of faith. How can we identify with someone who shows great faith when we know that we have fallen short of that?

There are a number of mothers in the Bible who did not do so well for at least part of their lives yet they had a measure of faith in the Lord.

Job and his wife suffered great adversity, perhaps more than any other couple. When they married it is possible that Job was already wealthy materially or at least showed signs that he would be. His wife may have had certain expectations concerning their future and no doubt was overjoyed with the arrival of their seven sons and three daughters (Job 1:2).

The incredibly great sorrow and grief that she felt over the deaths of all her children in one event is released in her words, “Curse God and die!” (Job 2:9). Job understood her deep sorrow and corrected her but did not rebuke her. He endeavored to give her a correct perspective even though he was floundering in similar grief.

Job’s wife must have accepted her husband’s correction because she apparently stuck with him. He was a faithful husband (Job 31:1) and she proved to be a faithful wife amidst the most trying circumstances.

What was her reward for her faithfulness?

The last few verses of the book of Job reveal that they had another seven sons and three daughters, not to replace the other ten, but in addition to the other ten.

All the material wealth of Job was returned two-fold (Job 42:10) and so were their children. The first ten would be waiting in the presence of the Lord (Job 1:5) and the second ten grew, married and had children. During the next 140 years Job and his wife rejoiced in their descendants for four generations (Job 42:16).

Job’s wife is not even named in the Bible and is not mentioned in Hebrews 11 but it would appear that she endured more than most women. Though in grief she may have faltered she ran the course of faith and received the reward.

The reward was a more intimate relationship with the Lord. Associated with that are the ten additional children and all their descendants. There were probably quite a number of them. The material wealth she eventually left behind, just as we all must, but this would not have been a concern to her after the proving of their faith in the Lord. Her security was now in the right place, in the Lord, and not in material things.

A Word Please!

“Oh, that the Almighty would answer me, that my Prosecutor had written a book!” (Job 31:35)

Job did not know why he had been singled out for such a painful end to his life. He did not die in this state but at the time he expected that he would.

When we read through his life testimony (esp. chapter 31) we must shudder because we have not lived out the righteous life that he has and yet he still suffered so greatly. Job knew the reality of the words, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding and he had lived by them. He still believed them true but in his desire to know the truth he cries out for more revelation from God.

The Book that he cries out for is readily available to us today. May God graciously grant to us the same desire for it’s revelation that Job had.

Jesus said that the Ninevites who repented at Jonah’s warning would be a testimony against Israel and that the Queen of Sheba would be a testimony against Gentiles at the White Throne Judgment because they did not come to Him (Matthew 12:38-42). It may well be that Job will similarly be a testimony against Christians who, though they had ready access to God’s Word, did not avail themselves of it. At the judgment seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:10) where all believers will appear, we will receive reward according to how we lived in Christ.

No doubt many of us will go with hopes high expecting the Well done, good and faithful servant but instead we will find that we have not obeyed our Lord and will have mountains of wood, hay and stubble to see burned (1 Corinthians 3:12-15). Why have we not obeyed our Lord?

Obedience to Jesus Christ is the expression and evidence that we have faith in Him and believe what He has said (cf. James 1:22; 2:20). Faith (believing God’s Word) comes from first hearing or reading His Word (Romans 10:14-17). Job says that a reverential fear of the Lord will motivate us to seek answers and when we have them obedience to them will bring understanding. Job longed for more revelation of and from God.

When we do not obey the Lord it may be because we do not know what He has said. We do not know what He has said because we do not read, study and meditate on His Word.

God has now written a book and Job will be a witness against us if we do not avail ourselves of the wonderful privilege of absorbing the knowledge, wisdom and understanding it provides. It really is the Bread of Life to our souls. Let us not starve!

The Goodness of God

“No one is good but One, that is, God” Matthew 19:17

When reading the Bible it soon becomes obvious that God is presented to mankind as “good.” The very first chapter tells us that that which God created was “good” and when completed on the sixth day God Himself says that His creation was “very good.” Since what one does can only come from what one is the obvious conclusion is that God is good. This is a fundamental and consistent teaching throughout the Bible.

The truth concerning God’s goodness has been under constant attack ever since the serpent (Satan) called God a liar (Genesis 3:4).

We ought not to be surprised that unbelievers question God’s goodness. They have an interest in being able to accuse God of being deceptive and evil. How can God be good when he allows people to suffer and/or be killed in earthquakes, tsunamis, fires and floods or through wars, starvation and sickness?

Unfortunately some professing Christians do the same. If a person does not believe that Genesis three is an accurate record of events in an actual garden with real live pinch-me-and-see people then they will end up blaming God for all the evil, pain and suffering in the world or deny His existence.

The fact is that sin entered the world by one man and suffering and death came with that sin. When God told Adam that if he disobeyed he would die He did not mean just when he got old. Had Adam not sinned, calling God a liar and questioning His goodness, he would never have died. Spiritual death was instant but bodily death was progressive giving him time to repent and receive God’s mercy.

It should also be noted that the Bible gives evidence that the physical creation also began dying (cf. 3:17-19). What we see today is part of the outworking of a dying world.

Is the accusation against the goodness of God valid? Most certainly not! God through Jesus Christ has provided a way for every person to be saved from sin and its effects. He has warned that these events will become more frequent as the world approaches the final death throes and the outpouring of His wrath against sin.

Job was a man tested beyond any other. All his children were killed, all his material possessions were stolen, his wife turned against him, his health was taken from him and to rub salt into the wounds his friends told him he was a lying deceitful sinner.

Would we doubt God’s goodness in such a situation? That we complain shows that we do.

Although Job did not understand why he was left so bereft and his confusion was aided by the untrue comments of his friends he sought an explanation only from the Lord (Job 13:3). He knew that God is good even though the evidence seemed to say otherwise (13:15).