JULY 12, 2019
“Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus — the man he had raised from the dead. A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served …” John 12:1-2a (NLT)
Since we were young, there’s a part of me that’s always wanted to be like her. She’s smart and silly, easygoing but grounded. She connects easily with people. Ask our circle of girlfriends, and they will each tell you Binu is her closest friend.
Me? I’m more on the introverted side with forced extroverted moments. I’m pretty sure the word “easygoing” has never been used to describe me.
Growing up with a sister can stir up many comparisons. There’s a pair of sisters found in Scripture who dealt with that, too: Mary and Martha.
Maybe you know the story:
Martha invites Jesus over.
Martha starts working.
Mary starts sitting.
Martha starts complaining that Mary isn’t helping …
Martha was the distracted, busy one. Mary was the one who chose the “better” thing, as Jesus said. He commended Mary, but He called out Martha.
I’ll be honest — I can relate way more to Martha. Anyone else?
Let’s fast forward a bit. It’s a similar scene — Jesus comes over again. What will Martha do this time?
“Six days before the Passover celebration began, Jesus arrived in Bethany, the home of Lazarus — the man he had raised from the dead. A dinner was prepared in Jesus’ honor. Martha served, and Lazarus was among those who ate with him. Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance” (John 12:1-3, NLT).
Oh, come on Martha! Didn’t you learn anything the last time?
This is a well-known passage because of what Mary did. Jesus said her act of worship would be told for generations to come. Then, there’s poor Martha, just being the same old Martha.
Or was she?
Something had changed. This time, she wasn’t complaining. In fact, the word served in the original New Testament Greek means, “caring for the needs of others as the Lord guides in an active, practical way” (emphasis added).
During Jesus’ first visit, Martha was distracted because she was focused on her sister. This time, Martha was focused on Jesus. She was caring for Him in a way she was designed to do.
Both sisters had this opportunity to be with Jesus just days before His crucifixion. It may have been in different ways, but they both served Him.
All of us Marthas need Mary moments (and likewise, many Marys could use some more Martha), but that doesn’t mean we have to deny how God made us. I can spend a lot of time wishing I was like someone else and working hard to be that particular way. However, there is so much freedom in knowing that God knew me before He formed me … and He kept me this way regardless.
He knew that messy closets would drive me crazy, and file folders, bins and baskets would make me happy. He also knew I’d be a bit serious and intense, but it all could be used to serve Him in my own unique way.
“You know me inside and out, you know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something” (Psalm 139:15 MSG).
How has God wired you? Strive for growth, but embrace who He made you to be. The world needs Marys and Marthas, you and me.
Heavenly Father, I thank You for how You have uniquely created me. I believe You designed every part of me for a purpose. Help me to use it all for Your glory and serve You with joy. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
1 Corinthians 12:4, “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit is the source of them all.” (NLT)
1 Corinthians 12:18, “But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.” (NIV)
by R.C. Sproul
In the arena of biblical studies, there are five books that are generally included under the heading of “wisdom literature” or “the poetic books of the Old Testament.” They are the books of Proverbs, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Job. Of these five books, one stands out in bold relief, manifesting significant differences from the other four. That is the book of Job. The wisdom that is found in the book of Job is not communicated in the form of proverb. Rather, the book of Job deals with questions of wisdom in the context of a narrative dealing with Job’s profound anguish and excruciating pain. The setting for this narrative is in patriarchal times. Questions have arisen as to the authorial intent of this book, whether it was meant to be historical narrative of a real individual or whether its basic structure is that of a drama with a prologue, including an opening scene in heaven, involving discourse between God and Satan, and moving climactically to the epilogue, in which the profound losses of Job during his trials are replenished.
In any case, at the heart of the message of the book of Job is the wisdom with respect to answering the question as to how God is involved in the problem of human suffering. In every generation protests arise saying that if God is good, then there should be no pain, no suffering or death in this world. Along with this protest against bad things happening to good people, have also been attempts to create a calculus of pain, by which it is assumed that an individual’s threshold of suffering is in direct proportion to the degree of their guilt or the sin they have committed. A quick response to this is found in the ninth chapter of John, where Jesus responds to the disciples’ question regarding the source of the suffering of the man born blind.
In the book of Job, the character is described as a righteous man, indeed the most righteous man to be found on the earth, but one whom Satan claims is righteous only to receive blessings from the hand of God. God has put a hedge around him and has blessed him beyond all mortals, and as a result the Devil accuses Job of serving God only because of the generous payoff he receives from his Maker. The challenge comes from the evil one for God to remove the hedge of protection and see whether Job will then begin to curse God. As the story unfolds, Job’s suffering goes in rapid progression from bad to worse. His suffering is so intense that he finds himself sitting on a dung heap, cursing the day he was born, and crying out in relentless pain. His suffering is so great that even his wife counsels him to curse God, that he might die and be relieved of his agony. What unfolds further in the story is the counsel given to Job from Job’s friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar. Their testimony shows how hollow and shallow is their loyalty to Job, and how presumptive they are in assuming that Job’s untold misery must be grounded in a radical degeneracy in Job’s character.
Job’s counsel reaches a higher level with some deep insights by Elihu. Elihu gives several speeches that carry with them many elements of biblical wisdom, but the final wisdom to be found in this great book comes not from Job’s friends or from Elihu, but from God Himself. When Job demands an answer from God, God responds with this rebuke, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me” (Job 38:1–3). What ensues from this rebuke is the most intense interrogation of a human ever brought to bear by the Creator. It almost seems at first glance as if God is bullying Job, in as much as He says, “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” (v. 4). God raises question after question in this manner. “Can you bind the chains of the Pleides? Or loose the belt of Orion? Can you lead forth the Mazzaroth in their season, or can you guide the Bear with its children?” (vv. 31–32). Obviously, the answers to these rhetorical questions that come in machine gun rapidity is always, “No, no, no.” God hammers away at the inferiority and subordination of Job in His interrogation. God continues with question after question about Job’s ability to do things that Job cannot do but that God clearly can do.
In chapter 40, God says to Job finally, “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it” (v. 2). Now, Job’s response is not one of defiant demand for answers to his misery. Rather he says, “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth. I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further” (vv. 4–5). And again God picks up the interrogation and goes even more deeply in the rapid fire interrogation that shows the overwhelming contrast between the power of God, who is known in Job as El Shaddai, and the contrasting impotence of Job. Finally, Job confesses that such things were too wonderful. He says, “I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (42:5–6).
What is noteworthy in this drama, is that God never directly answers Job’s questions. He doesn’t say, “Job, the reason you have suffered is for this or for that.” Rather, what God does in the mystery of the iniquity of such profound suffering, is that He answers Job with Himself. This is the wisdom that answers the question of suffering — not the answer to why I have to suffer in a particular way, in a particular time, and in a particular circumstance, but wherein does my hope rest in the midst of suffering.
The answer to that comes clearly from the wisdom of the book of Job that agrees with the other premises of the wisdom literature: the fear of the Lord, awe and reverence before God, is the beginning of wisdom. And when we are befuddled and confused by things that we cannot understand in this world, we look not for specific answers always to specific questions, but we look to know God in His holiness, in His righteousness, in His justice, and in His mercy. Therein is the wisdom that is found in the book of Job.