The test of Job

Job suffered one disaster after another, but he never lost his faith in God

Prologue:

In the land of Uz there lived a man whose name was Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil. He had seven sons and three daughters, and he owned seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen and five hundred donkeys, and had a large number of servants. He was the greatest man among all the people of the East.

His sons used to hold feasts in their homes on their birthdays, and they would invite their three sisters to eat and drink with them. When a period of feasting had run its course, Job would make arrangements for them to be purified. Early in the morning he would sacrifice a burnt offering for each of them, thinking, “Perhaps my children have sinned and cursed God in their hearts.” This was Job’s regular custom.

One day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them. The LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”

Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”

Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.”

“Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan replied. “Have you not put a hedge around him and his household and everything he has? You have blessed the work of his hands, so that his flocks and herds are spread throughout the land. But now stretch out your hand and strike everything he has and he will surely curse you to his face.”

The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, everything he has is in your power, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.” (Job 1:1-12)


The test of Job

One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, a messenger came to Job and said, “The oxen were plowing and the donkeys were grazing nearby, and the Sabeans attacked and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you.”

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, another messenger came and said, “The Chaldeans formed three raiding parties and swept down on your camels and made off with them. They put the servants to the sword, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

While he was still speaking, yet another messenger came and said, “Your sons and your daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. Then he fell to the ground in worship and said:

In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.

On another day the angels came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came with them to present himself before him. And the LORD said to Satan, “Where have you come from?”

Satan answered the LORD, “From roaming throughout the earth, going back and forth on it.”

Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil. And he still maintains his integrity, though you incited me against him to ruin him without any reason.”

“Skin for skin!” Satan replied “A man will give all he has for his own life. But now stretch out your hand and strike his flesh and bones, and he will surely curse you to your face.”

The LORD said to Satan, “Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.”

So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD and afflicted Job with painful sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head.

Then Job took a piece of broken pottery and scraped himself with it as he sat among the ashes.

His wife said to him, “Are you still maintaining your integrity? Curse God and die!”

He replied, “You are talking like a foolish woman. Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”

In all this, Job did not sin in what he said.

After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.

The LORD blessed the latter part of Job’s life more than the former part. He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, a thousand yoke of oxen and a thousand donkeys. And he also had seven sons and three daughters. The first daughter he named Jemimah, the second Keziah and the third Keren-Happuch. Nowhere in all the land were there found women as beautiful as Job’s daughters, and their father granted them an inheritance along with their brothers.

After this, Job lived a hundred and forty years; he saw his children and their children to the fourth generation. And so Job died, an old man full of years.


(Extracted from Job 2:1-10 , 1:13-22 , 42:10, 42:12-17, NIV)

Helping Those In Need

The second most important commandment

HOW FAR would you go to help a friend, a neighbor, or even someone you don’t know who is in dire need of assistance? Undoubtedly, varied are the ways to show one’s concern for the poor, the marginalized, and those struggling in life. As members of the Iglesia Ni Cristo (Church Of Christ), it is our Christian duty to demonstrate our love and compassion to someone in need for God to abide in us (I John 3:17).

 

Loving our fellowmen

The Bible, in no uncertain terms, makes clear that the most important commandment is to love God with all one’s heart, strength and soul (Mark 12:28-30). For this reason, we joined the Church Of Christ because we truly believe that it is only in this Church where we can render proper reverence, service, and worship of God. In having done so we will receive salvation on Judgment Day.

Moreover, to ensure our salvation, our Lord Jesus Christ taught the second most important commandment that we should fulfill:

“The second most important commandment says: ‘Love others as much as you love yourself.’ No other commandment is more important than these. The man replied, ‘Teacher, you are certainly right to say there is only one God. It is also true that we must love God with all our heart, mind, and strength, and that we must love others as much as we love ourselves. These commandments are more important than all the sacrifices and offerings that we could possibly make.” When Jesus saw that the man had given a sensible answer, he told him, ‘You are not far from God’s kingdom.’ After this, no one dared ask Jesus any more questions.” (Mark 12:31-34 Contemporary English Version)

Hence, according to Christ, loving our fellowmen is the second most important commandment. As Christ’s servants, such genuine and altruistic love must be manifested in our lives—it is something we should not avoid doing.

 

Manifestations of love for humanity

We can show such love for our fellowmen, especially the needy and impoverished, by doing humanitarian work. This is the reason the present Church Administration encourages us to be mindful of the plight of many less fortunate people who need help, sharing or giving material resources as much as we can or extending varied expressions of charity. This in accordance with Christ’s teaching as elucidated in His parable about the Good Samaritan, thus:

“A teacher of the Law came up and tried to trap Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to receive eternal life?’ Jesus answered him, ‘What do the Scriptures say? How do you interpret them?’ The man answered, “Love the Lord our God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind”; and “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”.’ ‘You are right,’ Jesus replied; ‘do this and you will live.’ But the teacher of the Law wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, ‘Who is my neighbor? Jesus answered ‘There was once a man who was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when robbers attacked him, stripped him, and beat him up, leaving him half dead. It so happened that a priest was going down that road; but when he saw the man, he walked on by on the other side. In the same way a Levite also came there, went over and looked at the man, and then walked on by on the other side. But a Samaritan who was traveling that way came upon the man, and when he saw him, his heart was filled with pity. He went over to him, poured oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them; then he put the man on his own animal and took him to an inn where he took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. “Take care of him,” he told the innkeeper, “and when I come back this way, I will pay you whatever else you spend on him”.’ And Jesus concluded, ‘In your opinion, which one of these three acted like a neighbor toward the man attacked by the robbers?’ The teacher of the Law answered, ‘The one who was kind to him.’ Jesus replied, ‘You go, then, and do the same’.” (Luke 10:25-37 Good News Bible)

The Church Of Christ today remains unwavering in its commitment to our destitute and disadvantaged fellowmen, in fulfilment of Christ’s mandate. This was recently highlighted by its walk-for-a-cause campaign, the Worldwide Walk to Fight Poverty. It aimed to raise awareness of the miserable condition of millions of our fellowmen gripped by abject poverty and to help them alleviate their sorrow and suffering. This and other charitable acts and projects initiated by the Church worldwide are made more significant in the light of unusual catastrophes, disasters, and tragedies that continue to occur on a daily basis. Indeed, there is no end in sight to extraordinary occurrences affecting many people today that call for each off us to prove our concern and compassion for others for the good of humanity.

 

Biblical precedents

God’s early servants fulfilled His commandment to love and help their fellowmen. Job helped the poor, the orphans, and the widows (Job 29:12-13). Apostle Paul showed his charitable act by bringing “contributions of charity and offerings” (Acts 24:17 Amplified Bible). In addition, a disciple of Christ named Tabitha was “rich in acts of kindness and charity which she continually did” (Acts 9:36 AMP2015).

Presently, the Church Of Christ, under the leadership of its Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, continues to extend its help across the globe to the poor and needy, members and nonmembers alike, through acts of benevolence and generosity especially to the victims of disasters and calamities.

 

The blessings

Those who help the needy and are concerned about the poor—not withholding their love for fellowmen especially when they have the means to do so—are not on the losing end because God lays I store His blessings for them:

“ … You must never have bad thoughts about a person that needs help. You must not refuse to help him. If you don’t help that poor person, then he will complain to the Lord against you. And the Lord will find you guilty of sin. Give the poor person all that you can. Don’t feel bad about giving to him. Why? Because the Lord your God will bless you in all your work and in everything you do.” (Deut. 15:9-10 Easy-to-Read Version)

“Happy are those who are concerned for the poor; the LORD will help them when they are in trouble. The LORD will protect them and preserve their lives; he will make them happy in the land; he will not abandon the to the power of their enemies. The LORD will help them when they are sick and will restore them to health.” (Ps. 41:1-3 GNB)

Above all, eternal life will be received by God’s servants who obey His commandment taught by Christ to care for the needs of others, especially the poor. The Bible made this very clear:

“Once a man came to Jesus. ‘Teacher,’ he asked, ‘what good thing must I do to receive eternal life?’ ‘Why do you ask me concerning what is good?’ answered Jesus. ‘There is only One who is good. Keep the commandments if you want to enter life.’ ‘What commandments?’ he asked. Jesus answered, ‘Do not commit murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not accuse anyone falsely; respect your father and your mother; and love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ ‘I have obeyed all these commandments,’ the young man replied. ‘What else do I need to do?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you want to be perfect, go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have riches in heaven; then come and follow me’.” (Matt 19:16-21 GNB)

by ROLAND A. AGUIRRE

THE VALUE OF COMPLETE OBEDIENCE

Jonah and the giant fish

God’s blessing is with those who obey, but His punishment is meted out to those who don’t. This was shown in the extraordinary events that happened in the life of God’s servant, Jonah.

Nineveh was the capital of he Assyrian Empire. The Bible describes it as a city guilty of evil plots against God (Nah. 1:9), cruelty in war (Nah. 2:12, 13), idolatry, prostitution, and witchcraft (Nah. 3:4).
To warn the people of Nineveh of the judgment that would befall them, God sent the prophet Jonah to persuade them to repent.

THE WORD OF THE LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.” 

But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD.

Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up. All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.

But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us, and we will not perish.”

Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.

So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”

He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the LORD, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”

This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?” (They knew he was running away from the LORD, because he had already told them so.)

The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

“Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried to the LORD, “O LORD, please do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, O LORD, have done as you pleased.” Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the LORD, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows to him.

But the LORD provided a great fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was inside the fish three days and three nights.

From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the LORD his God. He said:

“In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me.

From the depths of the grave I called for help, and you listened to my cry.

You hurled me into the deep, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me.

I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’

The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head.

To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever.

But you brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God.

“When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.

“Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.

But I, with a song of thanksgiving, will sacrifice to you.

What I have vowed I will make good. Salvation comes from the LORD.”

And the LORD commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.


(Quoted from Jonah1:1-17; 2:1-10 New International Version)
Illustration by Nestor G. Malgapo Sr.

How to surmount unusual disasters and tragedies

Ocean Disappears As Hurricane Irma Sucks All Sign Of Water Away From Beaches

HAVE YOU NOTICED how the calamities and disasters of late are becoming more unusual and bizarre? The high-magnitude earthquakes occurring in greater frequency during the last decade.1 The fierce storms that cause severe floodings, on one side,2 while sucking dry some shores, on the other.3 The ensuing famines as reflected in the rising rates of hunger and poverty.4 News of such disasters can already be disheartening to observers. How much more is it for the surviving victims and their affected loved ones?

But even if we are nowhere near the calamity-stricken places, we also face problems of our own. Our daily troubles may not be as catastrophic as those captured in media reports but they can also be devastating and seemingly insurmountable. In fact, we also find ourselves in uncertain situations that test the limits of our inner strength and confidence.

When problems hit us where they hurt the most, how must we cope? As members of the Church Of Christ, what should we always remember in the face of the obstacles we never thought we would go through?

 

Our hope is greater than our troubles

God is our hope. Life’s tragedies can be unimaginably difficult, but the help that comes from God is far greater than any unusual disaster. The Bible tells us:

“God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us.” (Eph. 3:20 The Message)

What God can do is far beyond the sphere of our limited knowledge, capacity, and imagination. His power is infinite and wondrous. No problem cannot be solved by God’s help.

Not only do we have God to rely on; we also have His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, to give us “the strength to meet and overcome every difficulty and circumstance” (Phil. 4:13 Last Days Bible). Rather than panic or cringe in fear, let us take courage in believing that God can and will help us even in ways no one could guess or expect.

 

God’s help: felt and experienced

Experience has proven how wondrous God’s promised help can be. Thankfully recounting how God rescued the Israelites from their fierce enemies, the Psalmist said, “If the LORD had not been on our side when our enemies attacked us, then they would have swallowed us alive in their furious anger against us” (Ps. 124:2-3 Good News Bible).

Enemies are not just people; even situations of circumstances that run counter to our favor can be as menacing and overwhelming. But as what the early servants experienced, “the LORD … has not let our enemies destroy us. We have escaped like a bird from a hunter’s trap,” for, indeed, “Our help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth: (Ps. 124:6-8 GNB).

That is also the experience of the faithful Christians in the first century led by the apostles. Through all the persecutions, distresses, and difficulties they suffered, they found God’s grace sufficient, His loving-kindness more than enough, and His mercy always available regardless of the situation. And with the power of Christ that dwelt in them, they overcame their weaknesses and emerged strong—truly able, truly powerful and truly drawing from God’s strength (II Cor. 12:9-10 Amplified Bible 2015).

 

Learning from our overwhelming burdens

When Apostle Paul confidently asserted on behalf of his fellow Christians then, that they were glad and well-pleased with sufferings, it was not as if the trials they faced were light and easy. In fact, during the apostle’s missionary journey to Asia, what he and the brethren went through completely overwhelmed them. “The burden was more than we could bear,” said Apostle Paul, stressing that they even told themselves, “this was the end.” Nevertheless, because God saved them from imminent death, the apostle realized that such overwhelming experience taught them a valuable lesson: to trust not in themselves but in God (II Cor. 1:8-10 Phillips Translation).

 

What it means to trust in God

Trust in God cannot be faked. Those who truly trust in God are the ones who (1) fear, (2) revere and (3) worship Him (Ps. 31;19 Amplified Bible).

To fear God is to hate evil Prov. 8:13). God-fearing Christians, therefore, renew their lives completely. They don’t lead sinful lives.

To revere God is to be obedient to His will, for those who are reverent before Him live in responsive obedience (Phil. 2:12 MSG). They don’t just pick and choose which commands to obey. They follow all of God’s teachings uncompromisingly.

To worship God, His servants gather themselves together to sing hymns, offer prayers, give offerings, and hear His words inside the temple or house of worship (I Cor. 14:26, 15; Heb. 13:15-16; Ps. 5:7; Isa. 2:3). Those who trust God don’t forsake such meetings for worship (Heb. 10:25).

Therefore, those who trust in God renew their lives completely, keep on obeying His commands responsively, and fulfill their duty to worship Him constantly. In so doing, they have the assurance that God’s help will always be available for them, especially when they need it most.

 

God is waiting for us to ask for His help

When terrifying things happen, it will be a terrible thing for us not to approach God and ask for help. The Lord God expects His people to call on Him:

“I’ve made myself available to those who haven’t bothered to ask. I’m here, ready to be found by those who haven’t bothered to look. I kept saying ‘I’m here, I’m right here’ to a nation that ignored me. I reached out day after day to a people who turned their backs on me, People who make wrong turns, who insist on doing things their own way.” (Isa. 65:1-2 MSG)

Let us not disappoint God as done by those who ignored Him. Doing so will not help us get through our troubles but will only make things worse. No matter how severe our hardships are, we must keep on worshiping God, obeying His commands, and renewing our lives. For, when we prove hat we fully trust and take refuge in Him, we will be able to surmount any unusual tragedy or disaster in life:

“My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, … God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.” (Eph. 3:14-20 MSG)


By MARLEX C. CANTOR

Based on the lesson taught by the Executive Minister, Brother Eduardo V. Manalo, during his pastoral visit to the Local Congregation of Muntinlupa, Ecclesiastical District of Metro Manila South on September 30, 2017

 

Endnotes

1Tyagi, H. (2014, October 25). Worldwide Surge in ‘Great’ Earthquakes Seen in Past 10 Years. Retrieved from www.nbcnews.com

2Loria, K. (2017, September 26)). This Hurricane Season Has Been Exceptionally Bad—And It’s Not Going To Get Any Better. Retrieved from futurism.com

3Meyjes, T. (2017, September 10). Ocean Disappears As Hurricane Irma Sucks All Sign Of Water Away From Beaches. Retrieved from metro.co.uk

4Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. (2017, September 13). Cred Crunch Newsletter, Issue No. 48 September 2017-“Disaster Data: A Balanced Perspective”. Retrieved from reliefweb.int

Moses and Aaron ask the King of Egypt to free the Israelites

SO MOSES AND AARON went to Egypt and gathered all the Israelite leaders together Aaron told them everything that the LORD had said to Moses, and then Moses performed all the miracles in front of the people. They believed, and when they heard that the LORD had come to them and had seen how they were being treated cruelly, they bowed down and worshiped.   

Then Moses and Aaron wen to the king of Egypt and said, “The LORD, the God of Israel, says, ‘Let my people go, so that they can hold a festival in the desert to honor me’.”SO MOSES AND AARON went to Egypt and gathered all the Israelite leaders together Aaron told them everything that the LORD had said to Moses, and then Moses performed all the miracles in front of the people. They believed, and when they heard that the LORD had come to them and had seen how they were being treated cruelly, they bowed down and worshiped.

“Who is the LORD?” the king demanded. “Why should I listen to him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD; and I will not let Israel go.”

Moses and Aaron replied, “The God of the Hebrews has revealed himself to us. Allow us to travel three days into the desert to offer sacrifices to the LORD our God. If we don’t do so, he will kill us with disease or by war.”

The king said to Moses and Aaron, “What do you mean by making the people neglect their work? Get those slaves back to work? Get those slaves back to work! You people have become more numerous than the Egyptians And now you want to stop working!”

That same day the king commanded the Egyptian slave drivers and the Israelite foremen: “Stop giving the people straw for making bricks Make them go and find it for themselves. But still require them to make the same number of bricks as before, not one brick less. They don’t have enough work to do, and that is why they keep asking me to let them go and offer sacrifices to their God! Make these men work harder and keep them busy, so that they won’t have time to listen to a pack of lies…”

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Now you are going to see what I will do to the king. I will force him to let my people go In fact, I will force him to drive them out of his land.”

God spoke to Moses and said, “I am the LORD. I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob as Almighty God, but I did not make myself known to them by my holy name, the LORD. also made my covenant with them, promising to give them the land of Canaan, the land in which they had lived as foreigners. Now I have heard the groaning of the Israelites, whom the Egyptians have enslaved, and I have remembered my covenant. So tell the Israelites that I say to them, ‘I am the LORD; I will rescue you and set you free from your slavery to the Egyptians. I will raise my mighty arm to bring terrible punishment upon them, and I will save you. I will make you my own people, and will be your God. You will know that I am the LORD your God when I set you free from slavery in Egypt. I will bring you to the land that I solemnly promised to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as your own possession. I am the LORD.’…”

Then the LORD said to Moses “Go and tell the king of Egypt that he must let the Israelites leave his land…”

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “If the king demands that you prove yourselves by performing a miracle, tell Aaron to take his walking stick and throw it down in front of the king, and it will turn into a snake.” So Moses and Aaron went to the king and did as the LORD had commanded Aaron threw his walking stick down in front of the king and his officers, and it turned into a snake. Then the king called for his wise men and magicians, and by their magic they did the same thing. They threw down their walking sticks, and the sticks turned into snakes But Aaron’s stick swallowed theirs. The king, however, remained stubborn and just as the LORD had said, the king would not listen to Moses and Aaron.

The wise ‘Small Four’

THE TERM “SMALL FOUR” is derived from a passage in the Bible which states: “Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise” (Prov. 30:24 New International Version, emphasis ours). The “small four” refers to four creatures or animals. Despite their smallness, they are extremely wise. What are these four small things and why are they extremely wise?

“Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer; coneys are creatures of little power, yet they make their home in the crags; locusts have no king, yet they advance together in ranks; a lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in kings’ palaces.” (Prov. 30:25-28 NIV)

The four small things are the ants, coneys, locusts, and lizards. Although they have certain weaknesses and disadvantages, they also have certain good qualities. It is important to have those qualities in order to improve our living condition especially in these trying times.

 

Ants  

“Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer” (Prov. 30:25 NIV). Ants are not only known for their industry—they keep going and going looking for food while they can. Ants cannot gather food during winter or even the rainy season. Hence, they store up food in the summer.

Ants display foresight—the ability to think ahead and to envision possible future problems or obstacles (Microsoft Encarta, 2009). A person who has foresight knows the value of time. The Bible itself shows how important time is: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven” (Eccles. 3:1 NIV).

Time is one of those precious resources given to us. A person who knows its worth will not waste it. No one can regain lost time. The young generation should consider this and learn foresight from the ants. In the near future, the children of today will marry and start their own family. Are they prepared for such a great responsibility? Someday, their parents will be gone. Can the children of today be able to stand on their own feet once that happens? Thus, the youth are given this biblical advice: “Listen, my son, be wise and give serious thought to the way you live” (Prov. 23:29 Today’s English Version). Wise children are those who give serious thought to the way they live. They do not waste their precious time on wicked things that only prevent them from attaining their noble goals and aspirations in life. As early as possible, the youth should learn diligence and hard work.

 

Coneys

“The coneys, a race without defenses, yet they make their home in the rocks” (Prov. 30:26 New Jerusalem Bible). Vulnerable as they are, coneys make their home among the rocks.

Coneys are resourceful enough to turn their disadvantage into an advantage. They use the softness of their bodies to insert themselves easily between rocks, where they can find their home and protection.

We humans have our own sets of weaknesses and disadvantages. We should not make these an excuse not to be able to improve our living condition. Let us also strive to overcome them; do our best to improve our own abilities. But most especially, let us seek refuge in the “Rock of unyielding strength and impenetrable hardness.” The Bible states: “With God Who is our shelter and refuge. In the Christian era, the strength from God is felt through the power that Christ gives. Apostle Paul experienced this:

“And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Cor. 12:9-10 New King James Version)

We should find strength and protection from our Lord God through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is sufficient for all our needs. When we are weak, that is the time when the strength that God gives through Christ is all the more felt in our lives.

 

Locusts

“Locusts have no king, but they are able to work together.” (Prov. 30:27 Easy-to-Read Version)  

One locust does not pose a threat to anyone. But when locusts arrive in swarms, they are a force to reckon with, as the ancient Egyptians in Moses’ time witnessed. The plague of locusts devoured “everything growing in the fields and the fruit on the trees … in all the land of Egypt” (Exod. 10:13-15 NIV). However, it is not the destructive behavior of locusts that we should imitate. Rather, it is their working together as a group. This is called teamwork and collaboration.

As there is strength in number, there is strength in unity. We can achieve greater things by always upholding the spirit of unity (Eccles. 4:9, 12).

Take note also that locusts have initiative—“no king, but … work together”. One should have this quality to succeed in life.

 

Lizards

The Bible states that “a lizard can be caught with the hand, yet it is found in kings’ palaces” (Prov. 30:28 NIV).

Lizards are everywhere. They live not only in ordinary houses. They can also be found in kings’ palaces. This shows the lizards’ determination despite their physical imperfections.   

Therefore, setbacks or negative experiences can be turned into positive ones. Apostle Paul teaches: “And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting  into his plans” (Rom. 8:28 Living Bible).

All that happens to us, including painful experiences can work for our good. We may have different imperfections and handicaps but we should not lose hope. We should have the determination to work hard to prove ourselves and achieve our goals in life. Various “rags-to-riches stories” serve as testimonies to the significance of having determination—firmness of purpose, will, or intention (Microsoft Encarta, 2009).

Four things on earth are small, yet they are extremely wise. We can all benefit from the wisdom of the “small four”: the ants’ diligence and foresight, the coneys’ resourcefulness, the locusts’ teamwork and collaboration, and the lizards’ determination. So it is wise—and it pays—to be diligent, hard-working, and persevering.


By FRANKLIN T. BUNAG

 

MEN OF INTEGRITY

Joshua and Caleb

THEY WERE THREATENED TO BE KILLED WITH STONES BECAUSE THEY REPORTED THE TRUTH AND REMAINED FIRMLY BELIEVING IN WHAT GOD CAN DO FOR HIS PEOPLE. BECAUSE OF THIS, THEY WERE DEEMED WORTHY IN THE SIGHT OF GOD.
“The land we went to explore is very good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he … will give us that land where much food grows. Don’t turn against the Lord! Don’t be afraid of the people in that land! We will chew them up. They have no protection, but we have the Lord. So don’t be afraid of them.”
PROLOGUE

After being saved from slavery in Egypt and receiving the Ten Commandments, The Israelites were on their way to the promised land—the land of Canaan. So, God commanded that the land be explored. After choosing 12 tribal leaders from Israel’s camp in Paran desert—two of them are Joshua and Caleb—and giving them instructions, Moses sent them as 12 spies. The men returned to the camp after 40 days of exploring the land 
(Num. 13:1-25).

THEY CAME BACK to Moses and Aaron and all the Israelites at Kadesh. This was in the desert of Paran. The men reported to them and showed everybody the fruit from the land They told Moses, “We went to the land where you sent us. It is a land where much food grows! Here is some of its fruit. But the people who live there are strong. Their cities are walled and large. We even saw some Anakites there. The Amalekites live in the southern area. The Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the mountains. The Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan River.

      Then Caleb told the people near Moses to be quiet. Caleb said, “We should go up and take the land for ourselves. We can do it.”

      But the men who had gone with him said, “We can’t attack those people. They are stronger than we are.” And those men gave the Israelites a bad report about the land they explored. They said, “The land would eat us up. All the people we saw are very tall. We saw the Nephilim people there. (The Anakites come from the Nephilim people.) We felt like grasshoppers. And we looked like grasshoppers to them.”

      That night all the people in the camp began crying loudly. All the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron. All the people said to them, “We should have died in Egypt. Or we should have died in the desert. Why is the Lord bringing us to this land? We will be killed with swords. Our wives and children will be taken away. We would be better off going back to Egypt. They said to each other, “Let’s get a leader and go back to Egypt.

      Then Moses and Aaron bowed facedown in front of all the Israelites and gathered there. Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh were among those who had explored the land. They tore their clothes. They said to all of the Israelites, “The land we went to explore is very good. If the Lord is pleased with us, he will lead us into that land. He will give us that land where much food grows. Don’t turn against the Lord! Don’t be afraid of the people in that land! We will chew them up. They have no protection, but we have the Lord. So don’t be afraid of them.”

      Then all the people talked about killing them with stones. But the glory of the Lord appeared at the Meeting Tent to the Israelites. The Lord said to Moses, “How long will these people ignore me? How long will it be before they believe me? I have done miracles among them. I will give them a terrible sickness. I will destroy them. But I will make you into a great nation. It will be stronger than they are.

      Then Moses said to the Lord, “The Egyptians will hear about it! You brought these people from there by your great power.

      The nations have heard about your power. If you put to death your people all at once, the nations will talk. They will say, ‘The Lord was not able to bring them into the land he promised them. So he killed them in the desert.’

      Show your great love. Forgive these people’s sin. Forgive them as you have from the time they left Egypt until now.”

      The Lord answered, “I have forgiven them as you asked. But, as surely as I live, I make this promise. As sure as my glory fills the whole earth, I make this promise. All these men saw my glory. They saw the miracles I did in Egypt and in the desert. But they disobeyed me and tested me 10 times. So not one will see the land I promised to their ancestors. No one who angered me will see that land. But my servant Caleb has a different spirit. He follows me completely. So I will bring him into the land he has already seen. And his children will own that land.

      Not one of you will enter and live in the and I promised to you. Only Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun will go in.”


(Quoted from Numbers 13:26-33; 14:1-13, 15-16, 19-24, 30 of the International Children’s Bible)

Illustrations by MARCO GILBERT LARDIZABAL