A Reason To Be Angry

Job 32:1-5

So these three men ceased to answer Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes. Then Elihu son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram, became angry. He was angry at Job because he justified himself rather than God; he was angry also at Job’s three friends because they had found no answer, though they had declared Job to be in the wrong. Now Elihu had waited to speak to Job, because they were older than he. But when Elihu saw that there was no answer in the mouths of these three men, he became angry.


By John Grimm

We can get angry for the most inconsequential items.  We get cut-off in traffic–we have road rage.  Our favorite team is done wrong by the referees–we abuse our children and wives.  We are slighted at work for a promotion–we massacre our co-workers.  Obviously, each of these situations can be handled in healthier ways.

Elihu had been silent, waiting to speak about Job’s situation.  He had every right to be angry.  Even though Job was distraught, it would have been possible for Job to justify God.  Having friends declare Job to be in the wrong is also a reason to be angry.  Job’s friends did not know the situation from the reader’s perspective, or from God’s perspective.  Thankfully, Elihu did not rush to judgment against Job or his friends.  The patience of Elihu helped Elihu present his case.

Maybe the Book of Job is about a young man’s patience.  Maybe the Book of Job is about the rush to judgment of older people.  Maybe, Job could have handled his grief if his friends had been patient like Elihu.  It does give us pause to consider our patience when other people are going through grief.  It does help us question how we treat our friends who going through unexplainable situations.

God, when we do not know the situation as you do, may we be like Elihu.  Would you help us keep our tongues in check when we are ready to say what does not need said?  Through your grace, we are looking forward to when we can become angry for those situations in which we need to become angry.  May your Holy Spirit show us the times to become angry and when to remain silent, and may the former be less than the latter!  In the name of Jesus, we pray.  Amen.

Whoredom and Whole Hearts

Jeremiah 3:6-14 (NRSV)

The Lord said to me in the days of King Josiah: Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and played the whore there? And I thought, “After she has done all this she will return to me”; but she did not return, and her false sister Judah saw it. She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce; yet her false sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore. Because she took her whoredom so lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree. Yet for all this her false sister Judah did not return to me with her whole heart, but only in pretense, says the Lord.


By John Grimm

The Bible does get our attention.  The title for this devotion comes from this passage.  Yet, as we read the title over and over, we are offended.  We have not acted like Israel or Judah.  We say we have not used stone and tree to make idols to worship other gods. 

Judah (the Southern Kingdom, which included Jerusalem) saw the faithless ways of Israel (the Northern Kingdom).  Israel was carried away by the Assyrians in 726 B.C.  Around 586 B.C., Judah was going to be carried away by the Babylonians.  Why was Judah going to be carried away, deported from the land of Judah?  Because it was only in pretense, in name only, that Judah returned to the Lord.

God has been calling repeatedly to America since Sept. 11, 2001.  We can return to the Lord.  Returning to the Lord cannot be done only with words, in name only.  Our faithfulness to God must overwhelm our lives so our actions show we love God with our whole hearts.  Our faithfulness to God can be seen in how we love our neighbors as ourselves.

Judging from all the evidence in America today, we have not returned to the Lord God with our whole hearts.  We may still be in our whoredom.

Holy Spirit, thank you for being patient with America.  Your patience allows us to return with our whole hearts to the Lord.  We hear about Jesus Christ and believe he is a good teacher.  Yet, when we believe Jesus is the Son of God come in the flesh, we find the beginning of salvation.  Work in us so that we see and live in the faithfulness of God, the salvation God offers us. We ask that our faithfulness to God be demonstrated by our whole hearts.  May the name of Jesus Christ be found in us before it is too late.  Amen.

The One Most Offended

This Sunday’s sermon will be a reflection on deep brokenness and the power of God’s grace, considering what we find in both 2 Samuel 11:1-15 and John 6:1-14. If you want to watch the sermon but cannot attend Holston View United Methodist Church, the message will be available online.

Today’s text: Psalm 51:4

Against you, and you alone, have I sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight.


By Chuck Griffin

Psalm 51 shows us the three R’s we should hope to experience after sinning: remorse, repentance and restoration. In its introductory header, we are told the psalm reflects what King David felt and cried out after he came to his senses and realized the terrible stench he had become in the nostrils of God.

The fourth verse is particularly enlightening to me. It reminds me that the effects of sin go far beyond human perception. For us, the problem of sin ultimately lies in what God experiences when his creation, made in love, turns against the maker.

When we think of sin, it’s not unusual to consider its effects in human terms, thinking of the people damaged by sin. Certainly, in the 2 Samuel stories tied to this psalm, we’re quick to consider how Uriah lost his wife and his life because of David’s lust and murderous efforts to conceal his shame. It’s also possible to argue that Bathsheba was a victim of power rape.

The losses they experienced certainly should be remembered. When Jesus summarized the law, he placed love of neighbor right up there with love of God for a reason—created as images of God, people matter.

Psalm 51:4 calls us to remember the source of holiness, however. God defines what is holy simply by existing, and as the only all-powerful, uncreated, eternal being, God has the right to immediately destroy that which he finds obnoxious.

How remarkable that we continue to exist! We should be astonished that remorse, repentance and restoration are available to us.

Yes, God truly is love—love is the only divine emotion that could hold the holy hand in abeyance.

Lord, we thank you for your patient love, expressed so clearly when Jesus Christ went to the cross to expunge our sins. Continue to grow us in grace so that sin comes to an end and we live fully in your eternal presence. Amen.

Before the Fire

Exodus 24:15-18 (NRSV)

Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the Lord settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.


I’ve read this passage several times before, but I was struck by a new impression while reading it again. Moses, who was often impatient elsewhere, showed remarkable patience as he sat waiting on God.

Six days Moses waited before God, who appeared to the people at the foot of the mountain like glowing fire in a cloud. What was it like for Moses to stand at the edge of the visible presence of God for six days?

Did he dare sit down? Was sleep at all possible? Was he so entranced that all he could do is stare, waiting, unaware of time’s passage?

We have no answers to those questions, of course. I suspect Moses’ experience was similar to what we will experience when we first stand before the fully visible God. I’m reminded of the MercyMe song, “I Can Only Imagine.

I look forward to knowing. In the meantime, we practice patience in this life, seeking divine glory and waiting on God’s holy word, which will come in God’s time to those who wait faithfully.

Lord, call to us—if we are spiritually slumbering, startle us! Amen.

The Lord Is Waiting

Isaiah 30:15-18  (NRSV)

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel:
In returning and rest you shall be saved;
    in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.
But you refused and said,
“No! We will flee upon horses”—
    therefore you shall flee!
and, “We will ride upon swift steeds”—
    therefore your pursuers shall be swift!
A thousand shall flee at the threat of one,
    at the threat of five you shall flee,
until you are left
    like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain,
    like a signal on a hill.

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you;
    therefore he will rise up to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
    blessed are all those who wait for him.

To whom do we go for advice? From whom do we gain insight for how to live in this sin-sick world? From whom do we learn how to get through the trouble of our lives?

The rebellious children of Israel sought out Egypt during Isaiah’s life. To counter the approaching trouble from the Babylonians, Israel wanted the strength of Egypt’s horses and armies. These rebellious children did not wait for the Lord. These rebellious children sent donkey- and camel-loads of wealth to Egypt to buy security. It did not work, for Jerusalem and Judah fell in 586 B.C.

How do we answer these questions? Are we spending our wealth to purchase security that we will find only when wait upon the Lord? We might be left as the flagstaff on a hill when troubles pursue us. We will be left as a signal on a hill. Unless we wait on the Lord.

God is ready to be gracious to us. God has wisdom for us. God has insight for us to live while in this sin-sick world. God has mercy so we can get through the troubles of our lives. God will bring justice to us if we wait for him.

God, you are the one for whom we can wait. Charging ahead with our own counsel will give us trouble. It is by your mercy that we live. The only means we have of seeking your grace and justice is to wait for you. We are calming ourselves so that we may know the blessings you have in store for us. Only by trusting in you through Jesus Christ will we receive the blessings you have for us. Thank you for Jesus and the justice you have for us. Amen.

Bad Timing, Bad Results

“Hagar and Ishmael Sent Away,” woodblock print, Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 1860.

Genesis 16:1-6 (NRSV)

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, bore him no children. She had an Egyptian slave-girl whose name was Hagar, and Sarai said to Abram, “You see that the Lord has prevented me from bearing children; go in to my slave-girl; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram’s wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her slave-girl, and gave her to her husband Abram as a wife. He went in to Hagar, and she conceived; and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked with contempt on her mistress. Then Sarai said to Abram, “May the wrong done to me be on you! I gave my slave-girl to your embrace, and when she saw that she had conceived, she looked on me with contempt. May the Lord judge between you and me!” But Abram said to Sarai, “Your slave-girl is in your power; do to her as you please.” Then Sarai dealt harshly with her, and she ran away from her.


This piece of a larger story can sound foreign, but there is a behavior within that should be familiar to us.

In the previous chapter in Genesis, we hear the Lord make powerful, ceremonially bound promises to the man we now know as Abraham, including the promise of a son. This son was to result in an uncountable multitude of descendants.

While no details were given regarding how the son would be born, there also were no codicils added to the promise—God simply told Abraham, “No one but your very own issue shall be your heir.”

Rather than simply accepting the promise, the ancient man and his old wife, who believed she was far beyond child-bearing years, tried to figure out what they must do to make the promise come true. The plan to impregnate a young servant sprang from Sarai’s mind, but her husband, who had witnessed God’s dramatically presented covenant, did nothing to dissuade her.

What ensues is a story of rivalry, jealousy, and some painful choices that have to be made once the real child of promise arrives.

Need I say it? God’s timing is what matters, not ours. In our haste, in our eagerness to see things the way we want them to be, we may take some of the shine off the miracle that will eventually happen.

It seems to me that the best strategy is to be faithful in our everyday tasks, trusting that God will lead us to better places and situations than we could ever devise on our own.

Lord, we are all afraid to pray for patience, but we do need it. May we rejoice one day in how perfect your timing has been throughout history. Amen.