The experience of Job indicates that recognizing adversity as an attack from the devil is an important step in seeking God’s guidance and direction and ultimately defeating the adversity and the temptation that it represents. If a person lives in the image of God, representing God among other people and fulfilling his/her responsibilities as God’s provider assistant, then an adversity in the person’s life is more likely a temptation instead of punishment for wrongdoing. We learn from Job’s experience that the appropriate response is to declare war against the devil by renewing your commitment to worship and serve God.
We begin a bible study series on Responding to Adversity, with intention to study events and personalities described in the bible to gain insight into what a Christian should do when facing adversity. The current study examines the temptation of Job to expand understanding of the nature of adversity. Job was an upright, blameless, and successful man: “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” [Job 1:1]. Yet, he suddenly came under a storm of adversity that included losing his children and every earthly possession.
Job’s experience indicates adversity may befall anyone, even a person that has done nothing wrong. His adversity was a temptation whereby the devil attempted to pull him away from God by destroying his earthly comfort and happiness: “But now, stretch out Your hand and touch all that he has, and he will surely curse You to Your face” [Job 1:11]. God permitted the devil to tempt Job within a wide but limited scope: “Behold, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on his person” [Job 1:12]. Therefore, we learn from this account that God protects us from temptation but may permit the devil to tempt a person. The devil may in that case choose how to tempt the person. He chose to rain adversity on Job in the study example.
Recognizing adversity as temptation will affect how a person responds. Because Job was upright and blameless, he most likely recognized the adversity as temptation and, thus responded by focusing on his relationship with God and leaving it all with him in prayer [Job 1:21]: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Also, we have encountered previous studies that showed adversity as a springboard to launch a person onto another phase of life with opportunities of great significance. Notable examples include the experience of Joseph in Joseph Called to Mission and Ruth in Ruth Joins Naomi, among several others. There also are cases of adversity befalling a person as punishment for wrongdoing: a possible example being the revolt in David’s family during his reign as king of Israel in Absalom Rises Against His Father David.
This study focuses on the experience of Job to learn that adversity may befall a person as temptation at pulling the person away from God. Recognizing the adversity as such will help fortify the person to respond by relying more on his/her relationship with God. A person that lives in the image of God (e.g., Job’s reputation as upright and blameless) will more likely recognize an adversity as temptation, instead of punishment for some wrongdoing. Thus, he/she will be better prepared to respond positively.
While living in Babylon as captive, Daniel won respect and admiration of many and served three generations of kings in high positions. He was reputed to have the Spirit of God and superior human excellence and as upright and thorough in his conduct of public affairs. He accomplished all these through unwavering commitment to worship and serve God and living in accordance with the commitment even while facing adversity.
Five testimonies in the book of Daniel provide for understanding Daniel’s life in captivity in terms of his unwavering commitment to worship and serve God, how the commitment affected his day to day human interactions, and the reputation that grew about him as a result. He was brought to Babylon as a captive under King Nebuchadnezzar, was appointed a king’s adviser after three years, and served three generations of kings at high positions. During the period, people believed he had the Spirit of God in him, had more knowledge and wisdom than any other person, and was upright and thorough in his conduct of public affairs.
The first testimony arises from events that occurred early in his life in captivity, when he recognized a conflict with his commitment to worship God while being respectful and obedient to the king and functionaries. He negotiated a resolution of the conflict so he could respect and obey the king and his staff without violating his commitment to worship and serve God. The second testimony arises from the king’s demand for someone to interpret his dream but first retell the dream to demonstrate competence in dream interpretation. Daniel recognized the task was beyond normal human competence and invoked the power of God to satisfy the king’s demand.
The other three testimonies were given publicly by highly placed people as part of their interactions with or about Daniel. One testimony was given by King Nebuchadnezzar as he explained his relying on Daniel to interpret a second dream. God revealed to Nebuchadnezzar through the dream that he would be banished to the animal kingdom until he recognized that “… the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses” [Daniel 4:25]. The other testimony was given by the queen of Belshazzar (Nebuchadnezzar’s successor) to calm the king of his fright from a strange writing that appeared on a wall in his palace. She informed him there was a man Daniel in his kingdom with a reputation of understanding and interpreting such mystery. The third testimony in this category was given by a group of administrators and provincial governors under King Darius (2nd successor after Nebuchadnezzar). The group had conspired to raise charges against Daniel to dissuade Darius from setting him up as a chief administrator over the whole kingdom, second only to the king. They searched his several decades of public service but could not find any basis for a conspiracy: “…They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent” [Daniel 5:4]. Finally, they said of Daniel: “We will never find any basis for charges against this man Daniel unless it has something to do with the law of his God” [Daniel 6:5].
We discuss these testimonies as basis for an understanding that Daniel thrived in a foreign land despite the adversity of being a captive, because he was committed to worshiping and serving God and lived a life based on the commitment. He lived the commitment through his interactions with people—both ordinary people and those in authority—in his day to day life and his conduct of public affairs. The testimonies provide evidence of his reputation as one with the Spirit of God, more knowledgeable and wise than any other, and upright and thorough in his conduct of public affairs.
Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego Defy Nebuchadnezzar
Interactions between King Nebuchadnezzar and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego illustrate two forms of motivation for worship. One is coercion; characterized by the use of force, intimidation, or any kind of threat of punishment to compel worship; and typified by King Nebuchadnezzar using threat of death in a fiery furnace to compel worship of an image of gold he set up. The other is choice, a personal decision to worship God based on understanding our relationship with him and illustrated by the action of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in defying Nebuchadnezzar’s threat. Worship by choice is based on God’s covenant—his conditional promise to be God to all that worship and serve him.
We discuss interactions between King Nebuchadnezzar and Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; regarding the image of gold that the king set up as god over Babylon. The interactions illustrate the contrast between two forms of motivation to worship. One is coercion, which is typified by Nebuchadnezzar using threat of death in a fiery furnace to compel worship of his image of gold. The other is choice based on understanding our relationship with God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego defied Nebuchadnezzar’s threat based on their choice to worship God.
Worship by choice is based on God’s covenant—his conditional promise to be God to all that worship and serve him. Abraham received the covenant from God on behalf of himself, his descendants, and all that receive Christ as the Messiah. God promised the Messiah for all people when he called Abraham to a mission to establish homeland and ancestry for the Messiah: “… And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” [Genesis 12:3]. Thus, his covenant with Abraham confers on every person the right to choose to worship him based on understanding that he will be God to all that will worship and serve him.
We discuss Nebuchadnezzar’s example to illustrate worship by coercion. Thereafter, we discuss God’s covenant with Abraham as the Christian basis for worship by choice, using information from the gospel according to John to understand the promise of the Messiah extends God’s covenant to all people. Then, we discuss meanings of “worship and serve God” based on information from previous bible studies.
Daniel invoked competence of God, verified to the satisfaction of king Nebuchadnezzar, interpreted his dream, and won the king’s acknowledgement of the power of God. The interactions confirm our understanding that competence is a gift from God, includes capability of verification to win human confidence, and is unbounded as God extends it as necessary to accomplish his purpose.
We discuss interactions between Daniel and King Nebuchadnezzar, regarding Daniel’s first dream interpretation for the king, to extend our understanding that competence is a gift from God. His gift of competence includes the capability of verification to satisfy human standards and win others’ confidence in one’s ability to apply the competence to their benefit. Human demand for verification of competence is well illustrated by King Nebuchadnezzar demanding the dream interpreter first tell him his dream so he can rely on the interpretation.
Also, we learn through the interactions that God’s gift of competence is unbounded. He extends competence as necessary to accomplish his purpose.
The example from Daniel illustrates that God extends human competence to accomplish an objective consistent with his purpose. Daniel’s recognition that he could rely on the unbounded competence of God defined a clear contrast between him and the Babylonian diviners. The diviners declared the king’s demand impossible to satisfy because they relied solely on human competence [Daniel 2: 11]: “What the king asks is too difficult. No one can reveal it to the king except the gods, and they do not live among humans.” In contrast, Daniel recognized that human competence derives from the unbounded competence of God and urged his friends “to plead for mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery, so that he and his friends might not be executed with the rest of the wise men of Babylon” [Daniel 2:18].
During his early years of captivity in Babylon, Daniel and three compatriots faced an internal conflict with fulfilling their commitment to worship and serve God while being obedient to King Nebuchadnezzar. The king had allotted them a daily ration of food and wine from his supply as part of their preparation to enter his elite service. However, Daniel believed the royal diet would compromise his relationship with God but also recognized he owed obedience to the king and his officials. We study Daniel’s interactions with the king’s staff to understand his approach to negotiating a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
We begin a bible study series based on the experience of Daniel and three compatriots, Hananiah (Shadrach), Mishael (Meshach), and Azariah (Abed-Nego), during their captivity in Babylon. This first session in the series focuses on understanding Daniel’s approach to peaceful resolution of a conflict triggered by the king’s diet requirement for Daniel and his friends.
The king had placed them on a diet based on daily allotment from his own supply of food and wine to support a healthy and robust appearance as part of their training for the king’s service. However, Daniel believed consumption of such food or drink would compromise his relationship with God but also recognized he owed a duty of obedience to the king and his officials. He negotiated a peaceful resolution based on substituting a diet of vegetables and water for the king’s delicacies. Thus, he and his friends remained obedient to the king without engaging in any practice that could compromise their commitment to worship God.
The study provides opportunity to discuss some guiding principles of Christian mediation. As we discuss in a previous study under Christian Basis for Mediation: Part 2 of 2, Christian mediation requires a commitment to peaceful resolution motivated by God’s promise of blessing for peacemakers [Matthew 5:9]. Also, successful mediation often will include seeking knowledge and understanding of the facts and a resolution based on respect for the facts. Daniel’s approach to resolving the conflict appears based on similar principles and consists of the following.
He was motivated to resolve the matter peacefully.
He showed knowledge of the chain of command and recognized who had authority for each decision needed to resolve the conflict.
He had faith of God providing a resolution but recognized the need to apply his human knowledge and capabilities while seeking God’s resolution.
He identified the stakeholders and determined their expectations and how the expectations could be satisfied simultaneously.
The first step in coping with adversity is to commit personally and wholeheartedly to worship and serve God. Resign to his resolution of the adversity, and commit to living in his image, representing him in every human interaction, such that your actions and words radiate Godliness and elicit positive response from others. Furthermore, resigning to the will of God may include applying human effort to accomplish what you can while seeking his intervention. God will intervene to guide us out of adversity but expects us to apply human effort as part of finding the solution. Because the nature and timing of his intervention are generally not known a priori, we have to actively seek solutions at the human level in order to position ourselves to receive and utilize his intervention.
We continue our study series on Samuel with a study focused on understanding how his mother Hannah coped with the adversity of childlessness. Hannah’s experience leading to the birth of Samuel was dominated initially by her bitterness due to not having a child after several years of marriage. Her husband’s other wife sought to take advantage of her condition. In contrast, her husband was kind and sympathetic and sought to comfort her into accepting barrenness. Hannah, therefore, was alone in seeking a solution to her problem. She dealt with the problem initially by nursing self-directed bitterness that she showed by weeping and often refusing food. However, one day during her family’s annual trip to worship at the tabernacle in Shiloh, she decided she could not continue to bear the problem in her heart. She took the problem to God in prayer and appeared to have left it with him because her demeanor changed completely after the prayer.
We examine her experience in this bible study to understand how she transitioned from wilting under the weight of childlessness to a feeling of being completely relieved of the problem even when there had been no humanly observable change in her situation. Also, we use the opportunity to revisit a previous bible study on David coping with adversity brought on him by virtue of a rebellion led by his son, Absalom. We see that lessons from Hannah’s experience and the lessons from David complement each other and provide useful insight into what a Christian can do to cope with adversity.
From both, we learn about wholehearted commitment to worship and serve God and total resignation to God’s resolution of the adversity in his way and at his time. From Hannah, we learn about living in the image of God as a manifestation of the commitment. And from David, we learn about diligence in human effort while resigned to seeking God’s solution through his intervention.
Hannah’s prayer aligned with God’s purpose and resulted in the birth of Samuel to lead the beginning of a new phase in the life of Israelites. She did not “know” God’s purpose to align with it by any deliberate human choice. Instead, the misery she felt from childlessness and her resignation to God as the only source of relief caused her to lift her spirit toward God, close enough to be guided to a spiritual understanding of her need that was consistent with God’s purpose. Based on her interactions with people and with God regarding the birth of Samuel, we learn about petitioning directly to God, respect for priestly authority, humility, and interacting with a fellow human being facing adversity.
Interactions regarding the birth of Samuel provide opportunities to learn about petitioning directly to God, respect for priestly authority, humility, and interacting with a fellow human being facing adversity. Hannah was grieved of childlessness and a feeling of loneliness due to people around her either seeking advantage from her adversity or asking her to accept the condition as a sentence to barrenness.
However, she did not succumb. Instead, she sought relief from God. In a moment of intensely focused prayer, she petitioned God directly and asked for a son that will be dedicated to serving God full time through all his life. Her prayer aligned with God’s purpose for a spiritual leader to unify Israelites through the next phase of their development. Though she petitioned God directly in the presence of Chief Priest Eli, when Eli scolded her for what he thought was drunkenness, she responded with humility and promise of obedience that moved Eli to join her prayer without knowing her prayer points. God granted her request in the form of the man we know today as Samuel.