Lots of jokes about ‘good’ lawyers. And pastors, too! But not today. Not in Job 16. Have you read the chapter yet? Don’t miss it! Poor Job is having the worst time in his life. Even his friends turn out to be ‘miserable comforters’! ‘Will your long-winded speeches never end? What ails you…'(Job 16: 2-3). With all that’s happening to him, all the losses, the pain he suffers, the inevitable unanswered questions, yet at the end of chapter 16 he affirms his hope that he has an advocate(vs. 19-21). What’s that? Someone who intercedes for us. Who helps us when we can barely help ourselves. Like a good lawyer. In this case, one who pleads with God on our behalf.
For believers, we know who that is– Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord! As the Apostle Paul says, ‘Christ Jesus, who died–more than that, who was raised to life–is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us'(Romans 8:34). Jesus… our advocate, our good lawyer. Who speaks on our behalf with the Father. He’s on our side. Understands our plight in life. Knows what to say when we can barely form the words in our mouths. He says them for us. He loves to help us.
There’s another precious word in this chapter of Job. The very last word of verse 21(NIV): ‘friend’. What a wonderful word. God is our friend. Someone who sticks by us, even when every reason has been given to leave us in the lurch, telling us to ‘take a hike.’ He won’t do that. Not ever. When we turn our backs on Him, He doesn’t. When the Lord seems far off, maybe it’s not God who’s walked away. Shouldn’t we turn around and see that He’s right there next to us? Those ‘footprints in the sand’. His carrying us like a shepherd with a lamb on his shoulders. Like a mother cradling a child in her arms.
Think about all that Jesus did for us–facing rejection, suffering on the cross, dying for those who could care less. Jesus endured horrific loss. Job did also. But Jesus would do it all over again if need be. He loves us that much. He’s our friend. A friend like no other. As He said in John 15: 15–‘…I have called you friends…’
Thank you, Friend, thank you…
Prayer: Dear Lord, for standing with us in life, we are so grateful. We’re never alone, no matter what. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
In my life, I’ve just had the very best friends. Not gobs of them at any one time, but at each place or church or job as financial planner, the Lord has provided good friends to enrich my life. I look back and thank the Lord for the blessings of friendship. For all those friends He has provided for me. And beyond that I hope that I have been the blessing to someone else as their friend. I’ve learned a lot over the years…and God’s not done with me yet! I’ve learned that having a friend is not a common, ordinary experience. Most people could care less. Even some Christians that we know and love. Let me tell you what I mean. When I left the 3rd church I served, it was a messy and painful experience to say the least. Devastating then and for quite awhile afterwards. There were over 100 ministers in my old denomination in our larger area. I was a member-in-good-standing–or so I thought, whatever that meant. Until it all fell apart for me…and them. Of all those ministers, the whole bunch, only one ever phoned me to say he was praying for me. Only one, and I guess that’s better than none! I guess. No one from my denomination ever stopped by, no one ever sent a letter or a postcard (no e-mail in those days). It was ironic that my dear friend, the local hospital Roman Catholic priest-chaplain, had me preach at the Sunday Mass at the hospital two later and said to ‘get back on the horse’! And another friend, a leader in the Jewish Synagogue in town, phoned to encourage me to start my own church and ‘please use the synagogue as we only use it on Friday Nights and only a few times a year.’ Friends come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. With surprises thrown in! Through all of this, I learned that being a friend is a very important calling from the Lord. Not just saying we are friends, but being one and actually acting as one, which is no ‘act’ at all. I’ve learned that right or wrong, I need to be there for my friends. Like what they did or not, I’m to be there for them just like God is for us when we’ve given Him lots of reasons for Him to ‘head out of Dodge’ from the like of John Fischer! Did you read that little verse in 1 Chronicles yet? Before that verse, for chapters really, are lists and lists of David’s most valuable people–leaders in the army, leaders in the coming Temple, and his own royal assistants. Almost at the end of all those names comes a man named Hushai the Arkite. He’s not in charge of the donkeys or the olive oil or one of the worship singers or an army officer. No, he’s listed simply as ‘the king’s friend’ (verse 33). Some Bible scholars think that the word ‘friend’ here is actually an official office, like an advisor or cabinet officer. But earlier in verse 33 there is mentioned Ahithophel who was ‘the king’s counselor’. David had his advisers but Hushai is his friend. The one he can open up to. The one he can trust like no other. The name Hushai in Hebrew means ‘quick’. As if to say, when a friend is in distress and trouble, don’t hold back. Let them know you care, that you love them, that your prayers will always be there for them. Be a friend like Hushai. Believe me, I’m taking my own advice. I’ve learned. The Lord has shown me. I’ve been there. You too?
‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus’…and what a great, old hymn. I love to sing it and whistle it too–much to my poor wife’s consternation! Reading this section of John 15, you can hear the love and the joy and the friendship in the marrow of Jesus’ words to His followers, to those in His day, and also to us today. ‘You are my friends…’ (verse 14) and ‘…I have called you friends…'(verse 15)–read those verses and put your name in the place of the personal pronoun. You…by name…are God’s friend, the personal friend of Jesus, the Risen Lord! Can you let that sink in a bit this Easter weekend? Meditate upon it. Say the words slowly. Feel their meaning. Stop…and ponder. As I was reflecting of these verses, and especially on the thought of Jesus being my friend, another thought entered my mind. Jesus said that ‘you are my friends’…not, I am your friend. Now, certainly He is our friend, the best one of all, ever. Of course He is. But, I was thinking about another way of looking at that–how am I a friend of Jesus? Oh, I love the idea that He loves me, that He’s my friend but what about how I can love Him… how I can be a friend of His? What pleases Him? Frankly, I’d rather have it the other way around, on the receiving end of all those goodies from God!! But that kind of friendship is way too one-sided, and we all know what that feels like to be with a so-called friend who can only talk about themselves, who shows no interest in us, who monopolizes conversations and can turn any comment to their own advantage in one-upmanship and self-centeredness waiting for you to take a breath so they can jump right in to tell their better story! You know what I mean. You have someone clearly in mind, and hopefully that’s not you or me–especially me! But, am I that way with God? And how about you? Always asking and begging in prayer, always talking about ourselves, not sharing Him with others, not speaking up about an issue when we know how God feels about it, not praising or thanking or just sitting quietly with His Bible in our laps listening to Him speak to us. That’s what a real friend would do…all those things and many more that you can think of as well. Be a friend to Jesus…be a friend today. “What a Friend Jesus Has in (your name)”!