Last Sunday in June. We had a substitute preacher / teacher in church this morning, our pastor and wife have taken a week off. I think they both needed it.
The week to come will be a bit haphazard -- wife's foster sister's natural brother died suddenly this last week. He had never been in good health, never since birth, but this was sudden and hard on people. He was "only" 50, which sounds younger all the time, and his mother is still living, as is his sister. She flew in from Florida on Friday, hadn't been up in these parts for a number of years (for which I don't blame her), and will be flying back the day after the funeral, or so I gather. She may only get to see Dear Wife at the funeral, which is not ideal but it's what it is. So a tough week behind us and another before us.
The Old Testament reading is chapters 7, 8, and 9 of Job. Also a tough scene. We all go through some. If you haven't, just wait, you will.
Is there not an appointed time to man upon earth? are not his days also like the days of an hireling?
As a servant earnestly desireth the shadow, and as an hireling looketh for the reward of his work:
So am I made to possess months of vanity, and wearisome nights are appointed to me.
When I lie down, I say, When shall I arise, and the night be gone? and I am full of tossings to and fro unto the dawning of the day.
My flesh is clothed with worms and clods of dust; my skin is broken, and become loathsome.
My days are swifter than a weaver's shuttle, and are spent without hope.
O remember that my life is wind: mine eye shall no more see good.
The eye of him that hath seen me shall see me no more: thine eyes are upon me, and I am not.
As the cloud is consumed and vanisheth away: so he that goeth down to the grave shall come up no more.
He shall return no more to his house, neither shall his place know him any more.
Therefore I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul.
Am I a sea, or a whale, that thou settest a watch over me?
When I say, My bed shall comfort me, my couch shall ease my complaints;
Then thou scarest me with dreams, and terrifiest me through visions:
So that my soul chooseth strangling, and death rather than my life.
I loathe it; I would not live alway: let me alone; for my days are vanity.
What is man, that thou shouldest magnify him? and that thou shouldest set thine heart upon him?
And that thou shouldest visit him every morning, and try him every moment?
How long wilt thou not depart from me, nor let me alone till I swallow down my spittle?
I have sinned; what shall I do unto thee, O thou preserver of men? why hast thou set me as a mark against thee, so that I am a burden to myself?
And why dost thou not pardon my transgression, and take away my iniquity? for now shall I sleep in the dust; and thou shalt seek me in the morning, but I shall not be.
Then answered Bildad the Shuhite, and said,
How long wilt thou speak these things? and how long shall the words of thy mouth be like a strong wind?
Doth God pervert judgment? or doth the Almighty pervert justice?
If thy children have sinned against him, and he have cast them away for their transgression;
If thou wouldest seek unto God betimes, and make thy supplication to the Almighty;
If thou wert pure and upright; surely now he would awake for thee, and make the habitation of thy righteousness prosperous.
Though thy beginning was small, yet thy latter end should greatly increase.
For enquire, I pray thee, of the former age, and prepare thyself to the search of their fathers:
(For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days upon earth are a shadow:)
Shall not they teach thee, and tell thee, and utter words out of their heart?
Can the rush grow up without mire? can the flag grow without water?
Whilst it is yet in his greenness, and not cut down, it withereth before any other herb.
So are the paths of all that forget God; and the hypocrite's hope shall perish:
Whose hope shall be cut off, and whose trust shall be a spider's web.
He shall lean upon his house, but it shall not stand: he shall hold it fast, but it shall not endure.
He is green before the sun, and his branch shooteth forth in his garden.
His roots are wrapped about the heap, and seeth the place of stones.
If he destroy him from his place, then it shall deny him, saying, I have not seen thee.
Behold, this is the joy of his way, and out of the earth shall others grow.
Behold, God will not cast away a perfect man, neither will he help the evil doers:
Till he fill thy mouth with laughing, and thy lips with rejoicing.
They that hate thee shall be clothed with shame; and the dwelling place of the wicked shall come to nought.
Then Job answered and said,
I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?
If he will contend with him, he cannot answer him one of a thousand.
He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength: who hath hardened himself against him, and hath prospered?
Which removeth the mountains, and they know not: which overturneth them in his anger.
Which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble.
Which commandeth the sun, and it riseth not; and sealeth up the stars.
Which alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea.
Which maketh Arcturus, Orion, and Pleiades, and the chambers of the south.
Which doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number.
Lo, he goeth by me, and I see him not: he passeth on also, but I perceive him not.
Behold, he taketh away, who can hinder him? who will say unto him, What doest thou?
If God will not withdraw his anger, the proud helpers do stoop under him.
How much less shall I answer him, and choose out my words to reason with him?
Whom, though I were righteous, yet would I not answer, but I would make supplication to my judge.
If I had called, and he had answered me; yet would I not believe that he had hearkened unto my voice.
For he breaketh me with a tempest, and multiplieth my wounds without cause.
He will not suffer me to take my breath, but filleth me with bitterness.
If I speak of strength, lo, he is strong: and if of judgment, who shall set me a time to plead?
If I justify myself, mine own mouth shall condemn me: if I say, I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.
Though I were perfect, yet would I not know my soul: I would despise my life.
This is one thing, therefore I said it, He destroyeth the perfect and the wicked.
If the scourge slay suddenly, he will laugh at the trial of the innocent.
The earth is given into the hand of the wicked: he covereth the faces of the judges thereof; if not, where, and who is he?
Now my days are swifter than a post: they flee away, they see no good.
They are passed away as the swift ships: as the eagle that hasteth to the prey.
If I say, I will forget my complaint, I will leave off my heaviness, and comfort myself:
I am afraid of all my sorrows, I know that thou wilt not hold me innocent.
If I be wicked, why then labour I in vain?
If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean;
Yet shalt thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me.
For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment.
Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both.
Let him take his rod away from me, and let not his fear terrify me:
Then would I speak, and not fear him; but it is not so with me.
The New Testament passage is verses 44-60 from the Acts. Stephen, the first-named deacon, is speaking. Not a very receptive audience to say the least. But he was faithful to the very end. May we do as well.
Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as he had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen.
Which also our fathers that came after brought in with Jesus into the possession of the Gentiles, whom God drave out before the face of our fathers, unto the days of David;
Who found favour before God, and desired to find a tabernacle for the God of Jacob.
But Solomon built him an house.
Howbeit the most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands; as saith the prophet,
Heaven is my throne, and earth is my footstool: what house will ye build me? saith the Lord: or what is the place of my rest?
Hath not my hand made all these things?
Ye stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, ye do always resist the Holy Ghost: as your fathers did, so do ye.
Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:
Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.
When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.
But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God,
And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.
Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord,
And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.
And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.
And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.