The Living Word for Sunday, October 10, 2021, is a non-denominational Bible study which relies on the Bible explaining the Bible, uninfluenced by any church’s traditions or preferences, and following the Bible’s sequence of progressive revelation. Read the whole passage first and let the Holy Spirit begin speaking to you through it, then go deeper with the verse by verse commentary and reflections. The week’s readings are as set by the Revised Common Lectionary, an inter-denominational resource shared by many different churches and chapels. The Bible version, widely used in contemporary churches, is the NIV © Biblica. Ref TLW40B
OT: Job 23:1-9, 16-17 — Job’s counsellors put his heart to the test as He steadfastly believes in God’s justice
NT gospel: Mark 10:17-31 — Jesus tests the heart of a follower who had done the right things, but not out of love
NT letter: Hebrews 4:12-16 — The word of God with our Great High Priest, Jesus, is the true test of our heart’s attitudes
And also read: Psalm 22:1-15
Theme: How much does God have our heart, and we His?
• See also this week’s article The Tests of the Heart which tells the story and brings a focus to the teaching that comes from these three readings
• And this week’s RQI video Who has my heart?
Job 23:1-9, 16-17 — Job’s counsellors put his heart to the test
Humbly maintaining that he has been loyal to God, Job holds out for justice
Context: Eliphaz, in the previous speech, has treated Job as a sinner, in the darkness of sin and for whom he has a remedy. Zophar, in the speech before that, went further in aligning Job’s grave difficulties with his rebellion before God. There is some truth in both positions, but Job does not accept either of them: he humbly asserts that they do not apply. Job is an interesting exception to the general assumption, that everyone’s need can be met by preaching the gospel.
1 Then Job replied:
2 “Even today my complaint is bitter; His hand is heavy in spite of my groaning.
3 If only I knew where to find Him; if only I could go to His dwelling!
“If only I knew where…” – true to his name (‘iyyob, Where is the heavenly Father?), Job is trying to find God from his sense of abandonment. Eliphaz had instructed Job “Return to the Almighty” but Job (vv. 8-9 below) cannot find God to have that encounter.
4 I would state my case before Him and fill my mouth with arguments.
5 I would find out what He would answer me, and consider what He would say to me.
6 Would He vigorously oppose me? No, He would not press charges against me.
“Would He… oppose Me?” – Job has a change of heart, expecting grace and justice, having worked through his earlier fear that God would be too powerful for him to be heard, Job 9:14-20, 33-34, Psalm 97:2.
7 There the upright can establish their innocence before Him, and there I would be delivered forever from my judge.
“I would be delivered” – Job is confident, as a God-fearing worshipper, of a fair hearing, leading to acquittal. The gospel is in this passage, which looks forward to the justification to be found, not in the tally of our good deeds, but through the relationship we have with Jesus Christ alone, Romans 4:25-5:1; 8:1.
8 “But if I go to the east, He is not there; if I go to the west, I do not find Him.
9 When He is at work in the north, I do not see Him; when He turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of Him.
16 God has made my heart faint; the Almighty has terrified me.
17 Yet I am not silenced by the darkness, by the thick darkness that covers my face.
“My heart faint” — Job’s affliction was both physical (sores and wasting) but also mental illness. The devil’s oppression is a combined attack on (human) spirit, (thinking, feeling) soul — and (physical) body.
“Thick darkness” — Job was fearful and anxious, feeling like someone groping in darkness, familiar to anyone battling depression.
SUMMARY Job has symptoms of physical and mental illness. Despite that, his heart remains true to God. The devil’s scheme is to incite Job to blame God for his misfortune — but Job is a man of resolute faith who trusts God for his deliverance
APPLICATION Two opposing truths stand out from this: God is for us, and Satan’s lie is that God may love others but not us, because of what we have done (or not done) that disqualifies us from God’s favour. This is the common folly of the religious but unspiritual mind. Knowing God personally through Jesus brings the assurance that this loving relationship establishes our destiny — and ultimately our deliverance.
QUESTION Why would God allow Job to experience sickness and “thick darkness”? How does Job’s faith, even while questioning, encourage us?
Mark 10:17-31 — Jesus tests the heart of a wealthy follower
This rich young man had done all the right things, but not out of love
17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to Him and fell on his knees before Him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“A man ran up” – previously in Mark’s story Jesus encountered small children who had no standing and were completely dependent. By contrast this young man, probably a council or court member, Luke 18:18, Matt. 19:20, was well-off and religiously observant. Jews of that time would consider him (wrongly!) to have a great standing with God and therefore claim to salvation.
“What must I do” – the question of a religious, but not spiritual, person. He showed respect to Jesus (“fell on his knees”) but simply didn’t understand Jesus’ teaching of how the kingdom of God is entered, Mark 10:13-16.
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good – except God alone.
19 “You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honour your father and mother.’”
“Why do you call Me good” – without denying His goodness, Jesus makes the man think about his question and focus on God. Will he recognise the goodness of God incarnated in Jesus? Will he recognise that only God Himself is intrinsically good?
“You know the commandments” – Jesus mentions the six that address wrong actions and attitudes to others including “fraud” for covetousness.
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
“All these I have kept” – this man is more sincere than it sounds. For him, the law is about the doing and the externals (like the six commandments Jesus quoted). Jesus makes him think: what is missing? The requirement to have a good heart, to love God and, by extension, have God’s love for others
• For further study, read Mark 12:29-30; Exodus 20:3; Deut. 6:5.
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me.”
“Sell everything…give to the poor” – not a general command, but addressing the stronghold of self-sufficiency that was holding this man back from salvation.
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
“Hard… for the rich” — and self-sufficient. Entering the kingdom of God is always a step of repentance, Mark 1:5; 6:12.
24-25 The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
“Camel…through the eye of a needle” – the largest animal and the smallest opening. The idea of a laden pack animal shedding its baggage to be led through a narrow postern gate is an illustration that may have been in Jesus’ mind.
26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
“Amazed…Who then can be…” – Jesus has overturned the generally accepted idea that riches are a sign of favour from God.
27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
“Who then… with man this is impossible” — this man, they would have thought, was an outstanding candidate. Jesus explains that there is nothing we can achieve of ourselves to gain salvation. It comes only by relationship with God and receiving His gift.
28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”
29-30 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for Me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields —along with persecutions — and in the age to come eternal life.
31 “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
“Left… for Me… will receive…” — followers of Jesus share a family generosity that transcends social and geographical borders. In this context, the hospitality of a hundred homes and families sharing the same values.
“First… last and… last first” — the kingdom order upends the man-centred order of wealth, privilege and the merit of having kept the externals. The kingdom is experienced by disciples with no other claim than looking to Jesus and accepting His humble way.
SUMMARY This man had done all the right things that the law said were to be done. It was unclear how he felt about God and whether his motivation was a response to God’s love. The rich young man had a theology of ‘doing’ — we might call it religiosity — but who had his heart?
APPLICATION This favourite story, also told by Matthew and Luke, goes right to the heart of our walk with God. Throughout history, man has put the first commandment – to love God with all our heart – on a shelf while working at all the others. The rich young man had a theology of ‘doing’ – we might call it religiosity – but who had his heart?
QUESTION Which is easier, serving God or loving God? Which should come first?
Hebrews 4:12-16 — The word of God judges our heart’s attitudes
Our lives are lived before God, His word and our great high priest Jesus
12 For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
“The word of God penetrates” – a warning to those living a sham that will be exposed by the living power of the word of God which acts like an all-seeing eye.
“Soul and spirit” – the human spirit together with the thinking, feeling, wilful soul. Taken together to mean the whole inner person.
13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.
“Everything… laid bare” – The word of God (v.12) is speaking and acting as the judgment of God Himself. All our thoughts and intentions are exposed, and accountable to the living, written Word, as to the living God who is the author.
• For further study read John 6:63, 68, Acts 7:38.
14-15 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet He did not sin.
“Great high priest” — for Jewish Christians, coming out of the Old Covenant priest and sacrifice tradition, knowing Jesus as the Great High Priest of the complete, final sacrifice was an important faith connection.
16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
“Confident… that we… receive mercy and grace” — because this high priest has the unique qualification of having been tested through suffering and death for us, Hebrews 2:9-10.
SUMMARY If there can be a disadvantage to learning to hear God speak to us, it is that His word is truth. It is that sharp penetrating sword that exposes our heart. It is the guiding ‘lamp to our feet and our path’ but also the light over the mirror that shows all our blemishes. However, God, in His love, is not so much about showing up what is in our heart, as revealing to us what in our heart we still need to let Him purify.
APPLICATION The ‘quiet time’ of starting the day with God and the Bible, letting Him speak through His word, has deep roots in Christian tradition. In an increasingly busy and confusing world, the need for this reflective discipline is greater than ever.
That is part of His process of redeeming and recreating and regenerating. In Jesus a ‘new heart for old’ is His ongoing promise.
QUESTION The devil will find ways to try to prevent you having a quiet time in the word. How resolved are you not to be put off meeting with God in this way?
PRAYER O God our loving Father, You tell us to love You with all our heart, but our hearts are shown to be wayward again and again.
As we come to You in and through Jesus, may our hearts be renewed by Your heart of love. We approach your throne of grace to find the mercy and grace we need, first for ourselves, and then to share with others.
Let us, as easily confused disciples, know the joy of your certain leading through the revelation of Your word.
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