Job 42:7 – WHY GETTING IT RIGHT ABOUT GOD IS IMPORTANT THIS CHRISTMAS 

Flowers instead of gunsOn Tuesday 16th December, 2014, a deranged gunman, with a distorted view of God, took hostages in a coffee shop in Martin Place, Sydney, and sought to impose upon us His murderous views of justice. Two people were killed and Australia, overwhelmed with grief, expressed their heart with flowers.

Job’s friends had a twisted view of God which affected their perspective of others. Job 42:7 says after the Lord had finished speaking to Job, He spoke to Eliphaz. Perhaps because he was the oldest and first to speak to Job, Eliphaz became the representative of all three friends. He said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have NOT SPOKEN ACCURATELY ABOUT ME, as my servant Job has” (Job 42:7 NLT). They said things about God that simply were not true. Their theology was false. God was angry. Not good to get God angry, yet even God’s anger is tempered with His desire to forgive.

What were they wrong about?

Like deranged gunmen they shot their accusations at Job and imposed upon him a God they invented rather than the God who has revealed Himself in the Bible? Job’s friends assumed that God was judging and punishing Job by afflicting him with various tragedies because of some great sin. This was absolutely false. The Lord said “He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil” (Job 1:8 NLT). They were contradicting what God had said about Job.

The logic of their theology went something like this; God punishes people whenever they do the wrong thing. Job is suffering. Therefore Job must have committed a great sin. We are not suffering. God will never allow you to be afflicted with trouble if you do the right thing. We must be right with God. This is twisted presumption and spiritually naïve.

Not once did Job’s friends offer to pray for him. They were more concerned with accusing him of sin and demanding he repent. They lacked the compassion and mercy that should characterise those who believe and follow God. They went after Job like rabid dogs determined to do harm rather than good. They spoke on God’s behalf but were cruel and vicious in what they said which clearly meant they did not know the facts about who God is. Their distorted view of God affected their ability to relate to a sick friend.

This Christmas is prime opportunity time to get to understand who God is by getting to know who Jesus is. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). To know Jesus is to pursue truth and a relationship with God.

By the way, God ignores Elihu. I don’t know why. I kind of wanted Elihu to be rebuked as well. Everyone seems to have their own ideas about God and God says to them “You have not spoken accurately about Me”. We want God to exercise His judgment upon certain people and not on others. We want Him to love us and not others. God, however, is the only one who is equipped to balance Justice with Love perfectly. He doesn’t need our help. He’s better qualified than we are.

God’s Word, the Bible, has all I need to know about God and so I don’t need to make up my version of who I think God should be or how I think He should act. The Bible is always my gauge for life and faith. 2 Timothy 3:16 (NLT) says “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.”  

The cruel things these so called friends said about Job are not discussed, only that their teaching about God was inaccurate. Why? 

It seems when we get it wrong about God, our view on life and others is twisted. God has revealed enough of His character for me to know I can trust Him. As I trust Him He gives me the ability to share His love and forgiveness for others and I will find myself expressing my heart with flowers instead of guns. 

Pastor Ross

AN AUSSIE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS IN THE OUTBACK

Posted: December 18, 2014 in Uncategorized

pastorross12:

Have a great Christmas everyone. Thanks for the great support you have given to Words of Life through the year. So excited about nearing completion with the Book of Job, about all that God has taught me and the opportunity to share with such amazing people. Thankyou.

Originally posted on Words of Life:

AN AUSSIE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS IN THE OUTBACK

Adapted Version by Ross Cochrane (based on Niland and Morrison’s version)

Down to the barn in the old rusty ute

Down to the barn in the old rusty ute

The original poem is brilliant by Niland and Morrison but it spoke about Santa Claus arriving in Australia and mentioned nothing of the birth of Christ, so I have changed it around to include the celebration of Christmas. Hope you like it. What would it have looked like if Christ had been born in outback Australia?

‘Twas the night before Christmas;

There wasn’t a sound.

Not a possum was stirring;

Not even a hound.

The inn keepers table

had tucker and beer.

But out in the stable

Mary’s baby was near;

If it happened today we’d be safe in our beds,

While dreams of pavlova danced round in our heads;

Mum in her nightie, and dad in his shorts,

Would have

View original 393 more words

40 YEARS OF MARRIAGE – RUBY WEDDING ANNIVERSARY

Dear Julie, 

Ruby - 40 Years of Marriage © Ross Cochrane

Ruby – 40 Years of Marriage © Ross Cochrane

I have been reading Job and thinking how much my ignorance gets in the way of my relationship with God. I want to know things that are not relevant to the passage of scripture I am studying or I want to know answers I don’t need to know about. God teaches me more and more to trust in Him each day despite the things I don’t know. 

I have been married 40 years to you and I am still astounded of how ignorant I am about marriage, except that I have come to know and love you. Much of our marriage works simply because you are the best person I know and I keep noticing more about you as the years go by that makes me appreciate and love you more. 

I cannot imagine life without my beautiful wife and family. We have grandchildren who reflect a lot of your character because of the time you invest into them. They will look back and cherish times when they have laughed and cried and shared with you about everything (including difficult questions about Jesus). Most of all they will recall a woman who lived out her faith and the example that you gave them. 

God makes Himself known in all kinds of ways through His creation but I am so privileged that our paths crossed because I constantly see God’s character reflected in you. 

Why did he link you up with me? I can only see God’s grace in allowing me to be your husband. I thought from the first time I saw you that you were out of my league. So when we began to go out together, I was humbled and wanted from the outset to treat you with as much love and respect that I could. I didn’t want to hurt you, but inevitably we went through all kinds of hurts and blessing and the things that can either tear people apart or bring them together. We stayed together because of God’s grace. 

You certainly gave me incentive to trust God in order to become a good husband and father to our children. I still don’t know how we have managed to end up with such wonderful people as those in our immediate family. Some things I am so grateful for but will never fully understand. 

I am pleased to be on a journey with you that started 40 years ago and has led us to this point. I am looking forward to the future. It has been quite a journey and who knows where it will lead.

I love you,

Ross

THAT WHICH GRACE RESTORES 

Our world is filled with the beauty of grace

It’s touch sweeps out, a soft cloud on a beach;

It beckons us to seek what is beyond our reach,

To shout and sing and worship face to Face.

Generations to come will take our place

And they in time will take their turn to teach.

For now we share our hearts and love to each

With footsteps in the sand they can retrace,

For timeless truths can never be removed

By waves that crash upon eternal shores,

But last to lead them to a life approved.

Now morning dawns and destiny explores

The path ahead, all obstacles removed.

Our world awakes to all that grace restores.

© Ross Cochrane

A RUBY – THE SYMBOL OF 40 YEARS OF MARRIAGE

A ruby is blood-red, speaking of the blood of Jesus shed for us and His grace in our marriage.

In Job 28:18 and Proverbs 3:15, wisdom is more valuable than rubies. In Proverbs 31:10, a wife of noble character is worth more than rubies. Certainly this is true of you. You are valued highly.

Some place rubies beneath the foundations of a building to symbolise a good foundation. Our marriage is based on a good foundation in Christ.

All natural rubies have imperfections in them, including color impurities. We may have our imperfections but we serve a perfect God and we share the colour of His perfect character.

Some rubies reflect a three-point or six-point “star”. This shows our connection to God who is 3 in one and to the Star of Bethlehem that led wise men to Jesus. We have always looked for Him in our marriage.

Imitation rubies exist but those with all their flaws are still considered the most valuable. We don’t look for the flaws but the value in our marriage. Despite our flaws we share a genuine love for eachother.

Improvements to rubies include heat which improves transparency by healing of fractures (cracks) or even completely filling them. Our marriage has been tested and approved for 40 years.

I praise God for the honor of being your husband. I love you.

Ross

Job 42:1-6 – THE ILLUSION OF KNOWLEDGE AND IGNORANCE OF THE TRUTH

“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance. It is the illusion of knowledge” – Stephen Hawking 

Ignorance and Truth. © Ross Cochrane

Ignorance and Truth. © Ross Cochrane

The Lord once asked Satan, who had been patrolling the earth, watching everything that was going on, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears God and stays away from evil…” (Job 1:8 NLT).

Satan replied “…reach out and take away everything he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face!” “All right, you may test him,” the Lord said to Satan. “Do whatever you want with everything he possesses, but don’t harm him physically.” So Satan left the Lord’s presence” (Job 1:8-12 NLT).

During this terrible ordeal Job loses everything but proves Satan wrong. He does not curse God and now he repents of using his ignorance as an excuse for not trusting in God. Psalms 51:17 (NLT) says “The sacrifice God desires is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.”

Job responds to God “I know that You can do anything, and no one can stop You.” He is saying in effect, “Lord, I can see Your great power. It’s obvious. You created and control the universe (Job 38:1-38), as well as the animals (Job 38:39-39:30) and even the greatest of all creatures – such as the Behemoth and Leviathon. I am overwhelmed by the physical and spiritual world. There are no limits to Your power. You alone are omnipotent” (see also Luke 18:27, Mark 10:27).

Stephen Hawking said “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance. It is the illusion of knowledge.” Job, in complete humility agrees. He continues to respond to God, “You asked, ‘Who is this that questions My wisdom with such ignorance?’ It is I—and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things far too wonderful for me” (Job 42:3 NLT). Job admits his ignorance and his illusions of knowledge.

Job says in effect “Lord, You expect me to answer Your words to me and all I can do in Your Presence is to retract my own” (Job 42:4).

Few people have experienced God speaking with them face to face. When Isaiah came face to face with God, he said “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, … and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty” (Isaiah 6:5 NIV). Now like Isaiah, Job recoils and recants, seeing himself and his words more clearly. “I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance” (Job 42:6 NLT).

Job is already sitting in the dust and ashes of his terrible loss. After the loss of family and riches and health “Job scraped his skin with a piece of broken pottery as he sat among the ashes” (Job 2:8 NLT) to find relief from the pain. In Job 30:19 (NLT) he said of God “He has thrown me into the mud. I’m nothing more than dust and ashes.” Now God appears in a dust storm, and Job feels like the dust, swirling around in the presence of His maker, helpless and humbled, engaged and yet totally submitted and repentant.

Someone said “Job’s tragic circumstances were not evidence of God’s abandonment, but an opportunity to trust Him.” Some things we may never know. Some of our circumstances we may never understand. The key theme of Job 42 is not about us knowing everything. It is about trust. Ignorance of the truth does not lead us to faith, yet trust in God demands admitting that we don’t know everything. Our ignorance of the back story is never an excuse for not trusting in Him. 

Perhaps I can rephrase Stephen Hawkins “The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance. It is the illusion that knowledge is God.” 

Truth about God and trust in God does not depend on me understanding everything about Him or His actions. Trusting in knowledge will never give you the whole story. 

Despite our ignorance, Job gives you and me the invitation to trust in Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6); the One who has defeated the power of sin and death (1 Corinthians 15:55-57). 

Pastor Ross

TRIBUTE TO MY FRIEND

Posted: December 10, 2014 in Uncategorized
Tags: , , ,

TRIBUTE TO MY FRIEND

When words just aren't enough

When words just aren’t enough.

Dear Grace*,

you were my prayer warrior, my mood changer, and inspiration. Your optimistic outlook even when a stroke left you with Dysphasia amazed and motivated me. Your beautiful voice and fluent speech became muddled, though you understood and communicated through your eyes and scattered words. And on those rare moments when we saw you crying, seeking to deal with the complexities of communication, our hearts cried with you.

You lived a day at a time with the photo of your husband not far away. Your genuine love for him and your family as you shared their sorrows and joys were the basis of your prayers. Your love for them and us was always reciprocated.

In the end you were so much a part of my own family that we can’t imagine you not being there. I will always remember your warm smiles at my devotions. And I will miss you trying to sing the hymns as best you could. I will miss your infectious laughter as you accepted us and guided us in our attempts to communicate with you.

You loved music and flowers and your room was so warm and welcoming. You were a faithful friend and we’ll miss you.

You loved the Lord and lived out that relationship by your love for others and we thank God that you are in a place with no more tears or pain where you can finally articulate clearly the faith you lived. Thankyou.

I told you I was going on holidays and that I would see you when I returned. It may take a little longer than I thought.

I wrote this poem for you yesterday

Glory be to God for muddled words,

For eyes that took rainbows captive with joy to share.

Your roses and music to us have been bequeathed.

Faith’s final race is run, undeterred,

The lure of heaven has called you from our care,

And all tears, all pain and trials have ceased

All words spoken, no longer slurred or strange,

Whatever is sung, ascends the heights of prayer

With soft, sweet, syllables of praise increased

She is to Him who is beyond all change,

Released. 

By Pastor Ross Cochrane

*not her real name

Job 40-41 – WHO AM I? 

Leviathan. Effects created by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and ForgeFile.org.au

Leviathan. Effects created by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and ForgeFile.org.au

“Who am I? I am a vegetarian. I have strong Abs and great core strength (No it’s not the author. Wait for all the clues.). I have a large, solid tail and extremely tough frame. I have no natural enemies. I drink huge quantities of water. My name means Super Beast or Colossal Beast. I am not able to be tamed.” 

Hippopotamus? Elephant? Dinosaur? Suggestions range from real, extinct and mythological creatures.

Whatever it is, God parades it before Job and says “Take a look at the Behemoth” (Job 40:15 NLT). Does the duststorm from which God speaks excavate the remains of huge bones as strong as iron? Does God reconstruct an extinct creature before Job? Is this a vision of a Dinosaur or Sauropod? When God says that He made the Behemoth “just as I made you” is He saying that this creature was around in Job’s lifetime, or that it was created in the garden in the days when the first humans, Adam and Eve, were made? So why is it mentioned if we can’t work out what it was? 

OK, so we may never know what the Behemoth was. Try again. Who am I? I am wild and cannot be caught, let alone tamed. I travel the sea and land. You can’t buy me in a pet shop. You will regret ever disturbing me, coming close, trying to capture me or threatening me in anyway. My limbs and neck have enormous strength yet I have a graceful form. I have sharp teeth and tough, double armour-like, impenetrable, glass-sharp interlocking scales over my body. I instil fear in the greatest of warriors. No weapon is able to fight against me. Only God can defeat me. I am a powerful swimmer. I am fearless, a proud king-like creature with no equal. Oh, and my eyes are red and I breathe fire. 

Am I a fire-breathing dragon? A crocodile? A killer whale or a great white shark? A creature that spits some kind of acidic venom that burns, like some snakes? Is it that my voice sounds like a roaring fire?

Is this a mythical, real, angelic or extinct creature? Ken Ham, in his book The Answers Book, states that it may have been something like Kronosaurus or Liopleurodon (Page 243), one of the Plesiosaurs. But what animal breathes fire? Whatever it is, it is dangerous and feared.

Is Leviathon some magnificent heavenly creature like those found in the book of Revelation? Satan is described as a serpent in the garden of Eden? Is the creature called Leviathon a visible form of Satan as an enormous, graceful but dreadful fire-breathing dragon, the fallen angel, enemy of God and the one who has caused such havoc in Job’s life?

Is God revealing Job’s reptilian tormenter to him?

In Revelation 12:1-17 (NLT) John witnesses “a large red dragon” with a mighty tail, an angelic creature. This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—is thrown down to the earth with all his fallen angels. This terror of the earth and the sea, is angry and dangerous; so angry that it declares war against all who have faith in God.

Ephesians 2:1-3 (NLT) says that many come under the influence of this beast, this “…commander of the powers in the unseen world … the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God.” In Job 41:34 (NIV) Leviathon is also called “…king over all that are proud.” 

Isaiah 27:1 (NLT) and Revelation 12-20 says that a day will come, however, when “… the Lord will take His terrible, swift sword and punish Leviathan, the swiftly moving serpent, the coiling, writhing serpent. He will kill the dragon of the sea.” Evil, false religions and Satan himself will be exposed and defeated. 

In the meanwhile Satan wreaks havoc in Job’s life and Job is helpless against him. In Job 41:10-11 (NLT) God gets to the point. He says “… Since no one dares to disturb Leviathon, who then can stand up to Me? Who has given Me anything that I need to pay back? Everything under heaven is mine.”

God says to Job and to you and me in effect, “If the most awesome of angelic or earthly creatures I have created demand a healthy fear then how much more their Creator? You don’t have the power or courage to confront these creatures. Do you really have the right to question My justice or My purposes when your understanding is so limited? Yet you feel you have a right to challenge Me and demand a hearing of Me. Do you really have any right to interrogate Me or accuse Me of being unfair in dealing with your life or in telling Me what to do? 

Job, I don’t owe you anything. You owe Me everything including your life. I chart your destiny and give your life meaning. You have suffered unexplainable difficulties and what appears to you to be insurmountable grief at the hands of Satan and yet you have said that I have treated you with injustice. 

What creatures are the Behemoth and the Leviathon? Better questions – “Who is the Creator? Is the One with the power to create the Behemoth and defeat Leviathon the One in whom I can trust even in the worst of life’s experiences? ” 

God says in effect, “Who am I? You may not understand it, but I am working all things together for good for those who love Me and who are called according to My purposes (Romans 8:28). But are you willing to let My purposes unfold in the process of a lifetime rather than in the crisis of a moment?” 

Pastor Ross

Job 40:6-14 – PLEADING THE FIFTH 

Zipper lips. Pleading the Fifth. By Ross Cochrane using MorgueFile.com, Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Zipper lips. Pleading the Fifth. By Ross Cochrane using MorgueFile.com, Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Job has argued his case with his so-called friends and called on God to hear his defence. Now, when he has his opportunity to put his case before God, he pleads the Fifth!! (The US Fifth Amendment and it’s many forms around the world protects a person from being forced to incriminate themselves). All Job can say is “I will cover my mouth with my hand. I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say” (Job 40:4-5 NLT).

If the truth shall set you free, what is it with the Fifth Amendment?

Job is probably thinking, “I have the right to remain silent because whatever I say will probably be stupid.” But in Job 40:6-8 (NLT) “…the Lord answers Job from the whirlwind: “Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and YOU MUST ANSWER THEM. “Will you discredit My justice and condemn Me just to prove you are right?”

Job is pleading the Fifth, but God, in His grace, gives Job the opportunity to come to a point where he can admit that he is wrong. God’s law doesn’t include the Fifth. It would be meaningless to an omniscient Judge. As God continues to speak to Job I wonder what Job is thinking. God’s words to him suggest it is something like this…

Job: Why is God mistreating me? It is unfair to single me out in this way. The wicked seem to go unpunished but I am being judged. I have served God faithfully throughout my life. I don’t deserve this. If I were you God… How could a loving God… But Lord, surely somebody should speak up and do something!

God: Are you as strong as Me? Can you thunder with a voice like Mine? (Job 40:9 NLT).

Job: OK Lord. I am weak. I admit it. And in Your presence I can barely speak let alone bellow. I know I have said too much already, let alone thunder out my demands. If I speak, anything I say might be used against me. And when I speak, things don’t simply come into being as they do when You speak. But that’s the point. If I were You I would change a few things in this world. Surely someone with some authority has to act.

God: All right, put on your glory and splendour, your honour and majesty. Give vent to your anger. Let it overflow against the proud. Humiliate the proud with a glance; walk on the wicked where they stand. Bury them in the dust. Imprison them in the world of the dead. Then even I would praise you, for your own strength would save you (Job 40:10-14 NLT). 

Job: Not me, Lord. I didn’t mean me! Don’t put me in charge! Lord, I am dressed in my circumstances, clothed in the condition of despair. I have no glory, only grievances; no splendour, only scoured sores; no honour, only agony; no majesty only a lack of power to really cope with my world, let alone explain it or change it. When I look at all the wickedness in the world I cannot judge impartially. I have no strength to save anyone, not even me. 

Paul, sitting in a Roman prison feels like Job, weak and helpless. He suffers insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles. The difference is that he realises that God doesn’t always take our pain away, obliterate the wicked, or give us fame and fortune in exchange for believing. In 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NLT) God speaks to us in our weakness… “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness….” 

Isaiah 40:28-31 (NLT) says “Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary. No one can measure the depths of His understanding. He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” 

The invitation is to be part of the solution rather than rail against God as if He were the problem. When I am faced with the character of God I am prompted towards more than simply pleading the Fifth. So I admit it. I’m wrong.

God knows what He is doing. I don’t always understand it but I can trust Him. I can make a difference because of Him. I can declare with confidence that He loves me and respond to that unconditional love. I can affirm that He is absolutely fair, that He knows more than I do, is more powerful than I can imagine, and He will never leave me or forsake me. He is eternal and my understanding is temporal. He is absolutely righteous and in grace He allows people the opportunity to discover who He is and to get their lives right with Him. He is the way, the truth and the life. His Word is truth. He is the unchangeable, unwavering, sovereign God and I can trust Him. 

Romans 5:6 (NLT) says “When we were UTTERLY HELPLESS, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.” He is the only One who has come for us and who is able to save us. I plead an amendment to the Fifth. I have the right to SPEAK UP, admit that I am wrong and believe in Christ. Anything I say will be used in evidence FOR me because God is for me not against me. There is therefore no incrimination for those who believe in Jesus Christ.  

Pastor Ross

Job 40:1-8 – GOD’S CRITIC? SERIOUSLY?

Dust Portrait. By Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Dust Portrait. By Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

It seems that God pauses a moment. Then as the storm still rages around us He continues to speak. No gale winds could come close to the impact of God speaking. He speaks to me through His Word, and His Truth batters against the defences of my soul.

He communicates with me and I am confronted by who I am in relation to His overwhelming presence. The God of the universe wants relationship with me. He continues to talk despite my railings against Him; despite my unfiltered thoughts and complaints. Despite my reckless rantings He speaks to me until I come to that place where I know that if He were to stop, I would die. This is the place where answers are no longer important and connection with God is more essential than existence; more defining than all the droning delusions of my demands (Job 40:1).

It seems it is pointless trying to contend with God, when even the slightest breath of His judgment could crush us in our arguments and our arrogance. God’s critic? Seriously? Who am I to become God’s critic, seeking to judge the merits of His Will and His Word with the limitations of distorted perspectives. Who am I to be a commentator of His conduct, monitor of His motivations, reviewer of His reputation?

When truly I meet with God I realise I am naked before Him and cannot presume to be the appraiser of the Almighty, an analyst of the Ancient of Days, parading as one who can evaluate the Eternal and arbitrate His actions.

How can I judge His justice? Am I the professional proof reader of God’s purposes, giving my opinions and assessments of the works of the One who deserves my worship? I bear the guilt of gambling with His grace.

When He speaks I am humbled and silenced. When given the chance to answer, there are no words. When I truly hear the voice of God, there is nothing to say. The encrusted barnacles of my pathetic complaints are exposed and scraped away, and there is only a raw soul left sitting in repentant silence (Job 40:2).

Romans 9:20 (NLT) says “Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God?…” Romans 11:34 (NLT) continues “For who can know the Lord’s thoughts? Who knows enough to give Him advice?…” Isaiah 40:14 (NLT) asks me “Has the Lord ever needed anyone’s advice? 

Job finally talks after listening carefully to God. He has argued his case with his so-called friends. He had called on God in Job 13:22 (NLT) “Now summon me, and I will answer! Or let me speak to You, and You reply.” Now he has his opportunity, as he wished, to put his case before God. All he can say is “I am nothing—how could I ever find the answers? I will cover my mouth with my hand. I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say” (Job 40:4-5 NLT). In God’s presence I am nothing and have nothing to say. Even humility and submission lay prostrate before God.

Why a whirlwind, I wonder? God answers Job from the whirlwind. Job responds from the dust (Job 40:6). A whirlwind is a two way conversation between unseen authority and helpless objects. Job, like dust, is swept up in a swirling correspondence between Sovereign power and his abandoned defense.

Psalms 50:3-4 (NLT) says “Our God approaches, and He is not silent. … A great storm rages around Him. He calls on the heavens above and earth below to witness the judgment of His people.”

Job is completely justified in defending himself against the false accusations of his so-called friends, but not in accusing God of being unjust. In the whirlwind Job submits to His Saviour.

“Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.” God says. How can you brace yourself in a whirlwind as God’s questions demand you to answer? What can you say when your bravado has been stripped away and even the elements are called to bear witness to your incoherent stuttering.

The invitation of the incomparable grace of God is to listen to His voice and give an answer, to converse with the unmatched majesty of the Creator long enough to realise that you do not have the answers and He does, and bowing in His presence you humbly repent and receive the gift of life. 

Pastor Ross

Matthew 17:24-27 – FISHING FOR A MIRACLE

Coin Fish. Created by Ross Cochrane.

Coin Fish. Created by Ross Cochrane.

There will always be those who confront you with their questioning cynicism to test your faith. They will cast a baited hook of guilt into the lake of obligation. They will seek to get a bite by putting a tariff on your beliefs and haul you in to support their cause, taxing the sacred parts of your soul with their questions and political manipulation.

Somehow Jesus always anticipates them. He knows ahead of time what they are thinking and asks questions that give perspective to the real matters of the heart.

The Tax Collectors come to the door and ask Peter if Jesus intends to pay His Temple tax. They are testing Him.

Peter says spontaneously “Yes, of course” but he wonders if God is taxed! Peter goes into the house to speak to Jesus about this but before he has a chance, Jesus asks him a question which takes him by surprise. Had Jesus somehow heard the conversation at the door? Are the Tax Collectors still there, listening to His response… ?

“What do you think, Simon?” He asks. “From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes – from their own sons or from others?” (Matthew 17:25 NIV). What has this got to do with Kings? Why did Jesus ask this question? 

“They tax the people they have conquered,” Peter replies. 

“Well, then,” Jesus says, “the sons are free!”  

Applying this argument to the Temple tax goes something like this: God is the King of the Temple. God as King doesn’t charge His Son Temple Tax? Jesus, as God’s Son, is exempt from the tax (Matthew 17:26).

That makes sense. There is no obligation for Jesus to give us anything. But Jesus wants to go an extra mile. Surprisingly, despite being the Son of the King, in grace He offers to pay, for us. It is not because of obligation that He offers to pay, but from a place of freedom that God provides. This is the principle of grace.

“But so that we may not offend them, …” He says. Not yet anyway. Soon offence would come but not now. Romans 9:33 (NASB) says that Jesus would become “a rock of offense, and he who believes in Him will not be disappointed.” 

“… so go down to the lake and throw in a line. Open the mouth of the first fish you catch, and you will find a large silver coin. Take it and pay the tax for both of us.” (Matthew 17:27 NIV). 

Is Jesus simply exaggerating a point and asking Peter to go fishing for a couple of days and pay the tax from the proceeds of the catch? I don’t think so. In an act of faith the Temple tax was paid for the forgiveness of sins (Exodus 30:13-20), so that Israelis could enter the Temple pardoned and accepted by God; a new, fresh start. But here God pays the price for our sins.

This a miracle from a fishing expedition that speaks of God’s grace in paying the price for our purification? The coin is a picture of what Jesus would do in dying for our sins.

Jesus tells Peter to go fishing. Strange fishing expedition. Is He serious? Go fishing? I wonder if Peter invited the tax collectors to go fishing with him. They don’t seem to be standing at the door waiting. Why go to all this trouble to get tax from a fish? A large silver coin in a fish.

Jesus said He would make them fishermen of men, not of coins to pay their tax, yet this story for Matthew, the ex-tax collector is bursting with significance. He knew the power of grace and provision from Jesus as Saviour and Lord. This story pictured once again his own journey in finding God’s grace.

Peter baits the hook, and the line is cast. With unusual patience Peter waits. A group of tax collectors, who have curiously followed at a distance are confused and amazed, because, when the line is suddenly taut and he hauls in a fish, they can see the silver coin as the fish gasps for air.

The fish is prepared for eating, the coin is given to the astonished tax collectors and a lesson in grace is forever imprinted on Matthew’s heart as the story is recounted. Jesus pays Peter’s debt in full. He would soon pay Peter’s eternal debt on a cross.

The other disciples go fishing that day. Any excuse to go fishing. Is this an offshore tax haven? They decide to take a net. But not one coin is retrieved from any fish for a net return on the tax they had paid.  But they eat well that day and reflect on the marvellous provision and forgiveness of God. God invites you to go fishing for such a miracle as this.  

Pastor Ross

MATTHEW 17:24 – JESUS AND TAXES

Fish Coin by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Fish Coin by Ross Cochrane using Paint.net and FilterForge.org

Because of His nomadic lifestyle, the request is made after He arrives at Capernaum. Strange that He should be asked to give. But then every male over twenty is expected to contribute about two days pay per year (half a shekel, a Greek slater, a Roman denarius). Only once, in the days of Nehemiah the Builder, when the people were poor, has it been one third of a shekel (Nehemiah 10:32).

Perhaps it is because Matthew’s background was as a tax collector that this story stays in his mind. By the time he writes his gospel the emperor Vespasian had destroyed the Temple (AD 70) and defiled this sacred offering by using it to rebuild the Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus.

But on this day you can still hear the religious leaders, Pharisees and Sadducees, arguing in the streets as to whether the payment of this silver coin was voluntary or compulsory. It didn’t matter much because as the announcement is made in all the towns of Israel; tax collectors asking for the payment, it is with a sense of nationalistic duty that each man gives to support the running of the Sanctuary.

Like a subscription or a membership fee that enables them to appropriate the use of the Great Temple, it pays for animals, incense, wine, flour and oil and priests. It pays for the sacrifices made each night and morning and is given freely, salted with that sense of historical obligation. Exodus 30:13-20 (NLT) says it is to be given in silver “… as a sacred offering to the Lord. … to purify your lives, making you right with Him, … ransom money … for the care of the Tabernacle.” 

It is not unusual that “the collectors of the Temple tax” make enquiries as to Jesus paying. That is their responsibility after all (Matthew 17:24). It brings into the temple treasury a lot of money. But why are they reluctant to go directly to Jesus? Instead they come to Peter and ask him, “Doesn’t your teacher pay the Temple tax?” Are they trying to accuse Jesus of being a Temple-tax-evader?

In an act of faith the tax was paid for the forgiveness of sins, so that they could enter the Temple forgiven and accepted by God; a new, fresh start.

Why would Jesus need to pay? Jesus had no sin for which He needed forgiveness. The Temple tax payment is a picture of what He would do for us. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT) says “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.”   

As the treasurer of the group (John 13:29), it is expected that Judas be responsible for paying the tax for all of them. This year Jesus chooses a different approach.

Soon Judas would throw 30 pieces of silver down in the Temple (Matthew 27:5) trying to retract his treachery, enough to pay for a lifetime of Temple Taxes, but he would hang himself before being purified by the sacrifice of Jesus.

This time the tax is given miraculously as an act of grace, a picture of Forgiveness. Jesus is the price; not earned or worked for and totally undeserved. He gives voluntarily in every way to pay for our sins. Jesus will pay the full price and He is the once and for all sacrifice. He will contribute His life for them. And for you. Grace unearned. 

Pastor Ross