Acts 20:1-16; Judges 13; Job 41
Whenever music stars appear in concert there are interesting provisions in the contract. Some require certain types of water. Others require certain kinds of fresh fruit. Perhaps one of the more outrageous contract provisions of all was Van Halen’s demand that they have a bowl of M&M’s backstage but have no brown ones. Yep, they actually said that. If you ever bought M&Ms, you know that most M&M’s in the package are brown. At first glance, the demand seems outrageous. The explanation, though, is ingenious. Van Halen had detailed needs for their lighting. After a few concerts where things weren’t done right, they wanted to make sure that the promoter paid attention to the details. If the bowl of M&M’s was without brown ones, they knew the promoter paid attention to the details and things would be set up right for the lights. If they saw brown M&M’s, then they did an extensive re-check of the lines so that their lighting would work and be safe.
Most contract provisions don’t have that kind of thoughtfulness behind them. Most just deal with the desires of the performer. Sometimes people read the Bible like a contract. Promises of God are seen not as blessings from God, but as obligations on God. The approach is a vending machine understanding of God. I do this, pull the lever, and God must deliver. There are indications of that idea that blessings ALWAYS follow good behavior and curses always follow bad behavior in Deuteronomy and Proverbs, among other places. Jesus, however, reminds us that the rain falls on the just and the unjust. God, speaking to Job, reminds Job that He is God and Job is not. “Who has a claim against me that I must pay? Everything under heaven belongs to me.” (Job 41:11)
Lest we go overboard in our understanding of blessings and curses based on behavior, there seems to be a general flow in God’s world that blessings do follow godly behavior. It isn’t a contract, though. It isn’t mechanical where, as I heard one pastor say, “You tied the hand of God and He must answer.” It isn’t the automated response that some televangelists would have you believe. Job teaches that. The scary part about reading the book of Job is that when I read what Job’s friends say, it sounds an awful lot like good theology. “Job, if you had done right, you wouldn’t be suffering. Job, confess your sin. Job, recognize your sin.” Even though I know the whole story and that God was bragging on Job’s righteousness, if I’m not careful, I find myself nodding in agreement when Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar are telling job to repent. God reminds us in this verse and in the whole book that He is in control and He will not be bound by contracts of human understanding.
In Job’s situation, that meant a lot of suffering for him. God eventually restored Job’s fortune, but I don’t think it was ever the same for Job. For the rest of us, though, God’s failure to be bound by a contract works pretty well. Rather than getting what we deserve, God grants us grace through Jesus Christ. We are forgiven, given mercy, and brought into fellowship with God, rather than being punished for falling short of perfection. When Satan accuses me before God and demands payment, God reminds him that the debt has already been paid: he has no claim on my soul. Of course, at the same time, that means that I shouldn’t presume upon God to “make good” on promises as if I could manipulate Him or force Him to obey me. Everything under heaven belongs to Him. He can use me however He wants for the sake of His kingdom. I’m just grateful that He loves me and doesn’t follow the Old Testament contract for my life.
Thank You Lord for Your grace and mercy. You don’t give me what I deserve, You make me Your child.