Reading 1 - Job 22-31
Job 22-31: The third cycle of speeches:
Eliphaz (Job 22);
Job's reply (Job 23; 24);
Bildad (Job 25);
Job's reply (Job 26); and
Job's monologues (Job 27 -- 31).
Job's final speech in the second cycle (Job 20) had demolished the foundation of his friends' arguments concerning retribution. At the same time there had been awakened in Job himself a profounder knowledge and keener faith, a conviction concerning divine justice that carried with it future assurance, the inevitability of God's intervention to right his wrongs -- and under the power of this conviction, Job's turmoil lessened and his serenity returned.
Their thesis gone, it was inevitable that the three friends should be driven from the field of argument. In this final debate, we notice how they were quickly silenced. A desperate last defense by Eliphaz, filled with wild, unsupportable accusations; a reply from Job that easily refuted them; a few words (mostly heard before) mumbled by Bildad, a brief reply by Job; and Zophar... failing to come forward at all. He had twice been mauled by Job, and twice was enough. For him, finally, discretion was the better part of valor.
With Zophar's failure to come forward, Job was left the master of the field, to wind up the debate with a series of monologues.
Reading 2 - Hag 1:2-8
"These people say, 'The time has not yet come for the LORD'S house to be built' (Hag 1:2).
The people seem to have been waiting for some indication from God that they should resume building, but in the meantime they were busy building their own houses and had forgotten God's previous commands to rebuild the temple. They were very practical when it came to building homes for themselves. They saw the need and proceeded to do something about it. But when it came to building a house that would honor Yahweh, enable them to worship Him as He had commanded, and exalt His reputation in their land, they were waiting. Seventeen years had passed. It was time to finish the unfinished temple structure, but the people put it on hold while they gave priority to what was more important to them.
" 'Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?... Give careful thought to your ways... Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build the house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,' says the LORD" (vv 4,5,8).
"The doctrine of Purgatory is false. So is that of the larger hope. Akin to these untruths is the notion that we can idle away our Master's time without imperilling our salvation. Whilst contemptuously thrusting aside the first two errors, let us not nurse the last. They are equally bad and fatal. Unbelief -- a refusal to take God at His word -- is at the bottom of them all. Each is a repetition of the old, old story: 'Ye shall not surely die.' We require to be very much on our guard against these and similar truth-hating, ease-loving, duty-procrastinating doctrines. Now is the day of salvation -- the day for work and for exhibiting faithfulness -- and we shall have no other. No work -- no wage: this is the inexorable decree of the Scriptures. Are we disposed to idleness? -- to look on with folded arms whilst others toil?
"Are we merely living on the labor of others? -- allowing day after day to pass without the slightest effort to further the interests of our absent Master? If so, let us bestir ourselves ere it is too late. Night, when no man can work, is approaching for us all. In the hour of death, and much more in the hour of judgment, the sluggards of Christ's household will bewail their folly. 'Woe to the christian brother (said Bro Thomas) who presents himself at the tribunal of Christ with nothing else to offer but a hidden truth.' Are we drones? Then let the shameful end of the slothful servant in the parable of our Lord sober and energize us (Mat 25:26). Let us unstop our ears to the voice which speaks so solemnly from heaven: 'Behold I come quickly, and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be' " (AT Jannaway).
Reading 3 - 1Jo 5:2
"This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands" (1Jo 5:2).
"A brother among the children of Sodom, whether these bear the name or not, might have the experience of Lot 'whose righteous soul was vexed from day to day.' His love would be undrawn out. His soul would be stirred within him disagreeably, in accordance with the characteristic of divinely approved men, who 'cannot bear them that are evil' (Rev 2:2) and despise vile men, honouring them that fear the Lord (Psa 15:4); but by John's rule, he would be able to comfort himself in the drought and in bitterness. He knows within himself that God is his chief delight, and the commandments of God the subject of his supreme regard. He can therefore say to himself, 'Though my antipathies are stirred; though my soul eats in bitterness; though my love is rarely called out, I know that I love the children of God, because I love God and keep His commandments. I have only to meet them to have my soul awakened to the fullness of love, and borne aloft with exceeding joy' " (Robert Roberts, "Seasons of Comfort" 42).