Lessons from a Jug of Bleach
Read: Job 23:1-10; Romans 4:17-21
I love it when God tucks blessings into the midst of the ordinary. I'm not talking about the "call the newspaper" events. No, I am referring to those little day-brightening happenings that can perk us up and put a smile on our faces. Two such things occurred this week. First, they're back! The robins. Perhaps they didn't all leave, but this week they were singing in our front yard. Such a sweet sound. Thank You Lord. Second, something not nearly as sweet has also returned. I can once again smell bleach after approximately 11 months of not being able to do so. I have been regaining my sense of smell after having had COVID. Bit by bit, various scents have slowly reemerged, but this week was the first time I was certain I smelled the bleach. Again, Thank You Lord.
As I thought about that pungent odor and how it was non-existent for me for all of these past months, I was reminded of a simple truth. Each time that we used bleach, even though I was unable to smell it, the scent was permeating the room. If I had used too much in a place where the ventilation was poor, my body would have dealt with the effects regardless of my being able to identify the strong scent of the cleaner. I never considered not using bleach because I couldn't smell it. I simply knew, without even thinking about it, that bleach would do what it was made to do, having nothing whatsoever to do with my being able to smell it.
Maybe this is a minuscule picture of how faith can look. Don't we often find ourselves in circumstances where we can't see what God is doing? I know that I have even said those very words. Surely, there is nothing wrong with looking and seeking to see a glimpse of what the Lord might be doing in a given set of circumstances. Often during the months when I could smell little or nothing, I would now-and-again inhale a flower or even vinegar trying to catch a tiny scent. The fragrances continued to flow faithfully from their sources. The roses and lilacs gave off their fragrances even when I wasn't able to discern them because that's what roses do. How much more faithful is our God? He is at work all around us. He has a plan for our lives and those of our loved ones, as well as a larger-than-life plan even when we can't get a whiff of it.
Let's look at two passages from the scriptures to remind ourselves of the faithful God Who never stops working even when man's senses can't discern what He is doing.
In Job 23:1-10, we meet Job in the midst of his great suffering. He was looking for God Whom he couldn't see. He was longing for an audience with the Lord so that he could lay out his case before Him. Throughout the book of Job, we read of Job's inability to understand the circumstances that had pressed down so heavily upon him. Oh, the pain Job had endured. His children had died. His wealth had been taken from him. His friends had been speaking harshly to him, and he was suffering great physical pain due to a grave illness. Yet, he didn't stop looking for the Lord, and Job didn't stop crying out for His help and understanding. In Job 23:10, we see that Job held tightly to a truth anchor. God knew his path, and after Job had been tried, he would shine like gold. There was so much Job did not understand; however, he knew God was there even though he couldn't find Him. Job's circumstances had not yet changed when he spoke these words. He had not yet been visited by the Lord, but truth buoyed him up. Yes, Job, would experience many other times of brokenness after this declaration.
We read about his ups and downs in his book; even so, the truths about God that he did know kept him from abandoning His Lord. He held on to the faithfulness of His God even in his brokenness and confusion. He knew God was there, even when he was unable to see Him.
In Romans 4:17-21, we have the privilege of looking into Abraham's thinking, even before the old patriarch received God's promised blessing. To really appreciate these verses, let's review Abraham's story briefly. In Genesis 11, we learn that God had made Himself known to Abraham and told him to take his wife and leave Ur where he had been living. God promised him that he would be the conduit through which blessings would flow out into the world. Though he and Sarah had no children, God promised that He would also give the couple that blessing, Genesis 12:1-3. Abraham was about 75 years old when God made His promise the first time. There is much more that could be written, but let's cut to the chase. Twenty five years came and went before God gave little Isaac into Abraham and Sarah's arms, and in our passage in Romans, we get to see how Abraham dealt with these long years in which he couldn't fathom how God would keep His promises. It is here that we are told Abraham's secret. He believed that God was able to do what He had said He would do. Abraham and Sarah had no ability to conceive a child, much less bring that child to birth. There was nothing Abraham could see in their lives that would have given him hope that this year the promised child would come. He had only the promises God had given, and the knowledge that the Lord would do what He had said. He didn't trust what he saw with his eyes; instead, Abraham relied on the faithfulness of God.
We know that Job, Abraham and all the people of the Bible whom we come to know lived imperfect lives. Maybe, that's why we learn so much from them. One moment they were boldly declaring and standing on God's Word in spite of what they were seeing with their own eyes. At other times, their faith and trust weakened when they weren't able to get beyond what they were seeing. The good news? When that happened God lifted them up. His grace and love sustained them, and they were able to keep relying on their Lord.
Father, Help us to rest in Your Word more than we rest in what our senses tell us. Help us to remember that You are able to do everything You have promised. Help us to remember little Isaac in the arms of Abraham and Sarah.