Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
Life isn’t easy, and often times it’s not even very pleasant. Stuff happens that you have no control over and you end up identifying with Job, who asked, “Do I have any power to help myself, now that success has been driven from me?” (Job 6:13) And don’t be fooled, that “God helps those who help themselves” line isn’t in the Bible, nor is it Scriptural thinking in the least. There are times when you are completely helpless in your situation. And in your misery you lose sleep, counting the hours until daylight; and you understand the line, “When I lie down I think, ‘How long before I get up?’ The night drags on, and I toss till dawn” (Job 7:4). And all you can do is worry, despair, and cry over your lot.
And for what? We read,
As a cloud vanishes and is gone,
So he who goes down the grave does not return.
He will never come to his house again;
His place will know him no more (Job 7:9-10).
Even if you work hard building up this life, you can’t enjoy it when you die, nor will it stick with you in eternity. Even Solomon noted this in Ecclesiastes 2:21-23,
For a man may do his work with wisdom, knowledge and skill, and then he must leave all he owns to someone who has not worked for it. This too is meaningless and a great misfortune. What does a man get for all the toil and anxious striving with which he labors under the sun? All his days his work is pain and grief; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is meaningless.
Heck, with the world’s economy as it is these days; what wealth you have isn’t even stable while you’re alive. But the economy shouldn’t be too surprising; as it is written,
Such is the destiny of all who forget God;
So perishes the hope of the godless.
What he trusts in is fragile;
What he relies on is a spider’s web.
He leans on his web, but it gives way;
He clings to it, but it does not hold (Job 8:13-15).
We run after money hoping it will change our lives and we work hard to make changes and we struggle and strive and worry and lose sleep and does it amount to anything? Then someone has the gall to tell you, “Think positive!” Pfft, for what? Will being positive change your life? Job tried this method too when the bottom fell out of his life. He explains,
If I say, ‘I will forget my complaint,
I will change my expression, and smile,’
I still dread all my sufferings,
For I know you will not hold me innocent.
Since I am already found guilty,
Why should I struggle in vain? (Job 9:27-29)
A fake smile in hard times does little to make those times better; as you probably know. Sometimes, life just sucks. Does any of this sound like your life? Well, if so, the Holy Spirit has a message for you.
You are not alone. Others have had to drag themselves through life too. What did they learn? Bildad tells us in Job 8:8-10,
Ask the former generations
And find out what their fathers learned,
For we were born only yesterday and know nothing,
And our days on earth are but a shadow.
Will they not instruct you and tell you?
Will they not bring forth words from their understanding?
Ok, Billy, what does wisdom say? He explains,
But if you will look to God
And plead with the Almighty,
If you are pure and upright,
Even now he will rouse himself on your behalf
And restore you to your rightful place.
You beginnings will seem humble,
So prosperous will your future be (Job 8:5-7).
Consider this: When you’re stuck, it’s not like you have anything to lose (except your pride). So take it, take this advice when things go awry and cry out to Jesus for help. He says himself, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37). Jesus isn’t gonna turn you down if you ask him for help. “But wait, that Bildad guy noted that I needed to be pure and upright- I am not.” That’s probably true; nobody is clean in the eyes of God. However, the Lord also tells us that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). So there you go; give your life to the Lord Jesus Christ and he will purify you from your sins, save you from your dark pit, and work on your behalf. Bildad reminds those who turn to the Lord for help,
Surely God does not reject a blameless man
Or strengthen the hands of evildoers.
He will yet fill your mouth with laughter
And your lips with shouts of joy.
Your enemies will be clothed in shame,
And the tents of the wicked will be no more (Job 8:20-22).
Through repentance and forgiveness, the Lord makes you blameless, and he does not turn away from those who need his help. When you come to God, know that there will be better days ahead; he has willed this for your life with him.
Now, at this point, those of you who are already Christian and know your Bibles might be rubbing your chin with a skeptical look. In Job, Bildad is actually a bad friend to Job and gets rebuked by God at the end. So how can his advice be good? His advice is good because it is the answer for an unbeliever. But Job was already righteous before the Lord. What then? What is a believer to do when life sucks? In that situation one should consider what life is:
Does not man have hard service on earth?
Are not his days like those of a hired man?
Like a slave longing for the evening shadows,
Or a hired man waiting eagerly for his wages,
So I have been allotted months of futility,
And nights of misery have been assigned to me (Job 7:1-3).
Life is hard, but for a believer it doesn’t end at death. We’re waiting for heaven (as Job noted above), which will pay back and more for all the suffering in our lives. Remember what it is that you’re looking forward to, my friend. John wrote about our life beyond life as he saw it in Revelation 21:1-4,
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
That’s how our Lord is, he sees every ounce of pain and suffering that we experience, but when the end comes, he’ll personally wipe the tears away as we enter into his glory. He’ll wipe away your tears too; for he’s seen all of your suffering here. All of the heroes of faith we read about in the Bible have dealt with crap in their lives as well; but they knew that heaven was coming so they kept going patiently and faithfully. We know this because it’s been noted about them,
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own (Hebrews 11:13-14).
My mind turns to Moses. During his life, Moses saw a lot of cool stuff, but he worked hard and stressed for almost all of that time. Then, when the time came for the Israelites to move into the Promised Land, the Lord wouldn’t let Moses cross into it. Instead, God had him climb up Mount Nebo and look out upon the Promised Land; and then Moses died (you can find all this in Deuteronomy 34:1-5). I used to think that God was cruel in doing this- but he wasn’t. Right as Moses looked out over all that he had worked so hard to get his people to, God called him somewhere much much better. Heaven is better than any promised land the earth can provide; so much so that here on earth we don’t understand our own restlessness and anxiety because we simply can’t process what it is we’re waiting for. Paul explains it like this,
Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come (2 Corinthians 5:1-5).
We want so bad for things to be like they are promised in the Bible, and so in this life we struggle harder and we stress more because there is such a discontinuity between heaven and earth. We want to live, but not in the lives we’re given; and it creates confusion in our hearts. This is because the life we want is our life above, our place in heaven. But forget not, my friend, that heaven awaits. Jesus already confirmed for us what we desire to be reminded,
In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am (John 14:2-3).
One day, all of us in Christ will join him in heaven; and it will be amazing.
So we in Christ wait and do our duties here while we wait for the glory to come. What do we do while we wait? Our Lord tells us,
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves to not break in and steal (Matthew 6:19-20).
Since you know that this life is not even a poor reflection of heaven- more like a poor scribble on a napkin compared to the glory of heaven we’ll experience- don’t waste your life here pursuing gain. That’s not to say you shouldn’t live here normally; go, do your job, get married, enjoy the things the Lord gives you; for it is written,
A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his work. This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment? (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25)
But while you’re living your life store up treasures in heaven. Now, I’m not sure the exact process of doing storing up in heaven, but it seems a fine place to start by doing good for others and making sure they’re heaven-bound too. Surely such things come with holy rewards above. Because for now we wait and we work in the Lord, waiting for what is to come. Paul wrote,
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body (Philippians 1:21-24).
The same is true in your life too. If have not yet been called to heaven, then at current it is more necessary for you to be here on earth. Therefore, make the most of your time here and seek out the opportunities the Lord throws your way to help to build up the name of God here on earth as you wait to join him in the Kingdom of Heaven.