Monday, January 31, 2011

Leaders Who... Wait (Exodus 1 to 3)


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Based on ESV.com's Chronological Bible In a Year schedule. If anyone would like to join in, this blog's comments sections would be a good forum in which to share insights from the text.
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This is a reflection on Moses' wait to lead in Exodus. It's also a word for those who think they are 'called' to be something great: Moses waited from birth to 40, then waited until 80, and was finally 120 before he reached the end of the wilderness journeys. Be prepared to wait. And be prepare to wait for a while.

It Is Okay to Be Called to Something Normal
I moved to Caronport, SK, a few months ago - and I noticed that almost everyone here feels as if they are 'called' to some sort of ministry. Now, while I highly doubt that everyone is genuinely called to something great (I find it odd that no one feels 'called' to work hard and raise a family and just be good Christians in their community - apparently that isn't sexy enough for people who have been raised on epic testimonies from the front of the church, and that's a shame) I do think that God might have some great things in store for a lot of people around here. But I think that they might have to wait. That is the pattern for most Biblical leaders.

It Is Okay to Wait On Your Calling
From the time that Moses was brought into Pharaoh's house, to the time when he took it upon himself to save his people from slavery, was 40 years. It still was not enough time. This child who grew up hearing that he was special and that God had put him in his situation to save the Hebrews, waited until he was fully 40 years old before he started striking down Egyptians and mediating between his Jewish people. That is a long time to wait! It still was not enough.

God waited another 40 years, until Moses was 80 and had become a failure at life to call him (tending Jethro's sheep would be like doing janitorial work at your father-in-law's business - it is not something that successful people do, exactly). He put Moses back on the shelf and did nothing with him for a very long time.

Two Encouragements for the Called
Maybe you feel like you are going to do something great with your life. To that sentiment, I have two encouragements: one, don't hunger for attention and a testimony so much that you cease to value the 'bland' calling of working hard and raising your family. Two, if you really are called then you should be prepared to have to wait -you missionaries, pastors, movement leaders, and aspiring testimony givers- because Moses had to 80 years. And he was not the only one, either: Abraham waited 13 years for Isaac; Joseph waited over 20 years to fulfill his vision; and Noah was 600 years old before he fulfilled his father's prophecy.

Other comments and observations can be found in the comments section! Join in!

Joseph's Economic Action Plan (Genesis 46 to 50)

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*Based on ESV.com's Chronological Bible In a Year schedule. If anyone would like to join in, this blog's comments sections would be a good forum in which to share insights from the text.
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My Best Shot, Based on Genesis (Genesis 47)
The specifics of Joseph's economic deal in Genesis 47 are a little bit hazy: we do not know how Egypt collected taxes before this, or how Pharaoh applied these rules to his own people. So it is tough to characterize these sorts of laws as capitalist or socialist. With that said, Joseph seems to be practicing a sort of Keynesian economic model (as far as I can understand it) of overspending during bad times, saving during good times, and government intervention into business. As far as the Bible endorses Joseph's decisions, if that is really what Joseph is doing here, I guess the Bible supports Keynesian economics. This troubles me as I consider myself a fiscal conservative; I suppose I'll have to do more research, and I would appreciate any push back, but here is a small list of things in the text that I noticed re: economics:


We just do not have the details that we need to work everything out here. Also, as much as I would like to write a post on the Bible and economics, I do not know enough about economics to comment intelligently on the matter, and the post-per-day format that I have committed myself to leaves little room for in depth research between posts. So mostly I just comment on what I know. I am not well-versed in economic policy, but Joseph's methods tend to look a whole lot more like the United States of America (Democrat) than they do like Britain (Conservative). Different economic realities might have come into play for sure. I just thought that it would be interesting to point out.

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*The surplus crops might as well have been money - Joseph bought land with them. And he used them to trade with outside nations. The surplus crops were really a form of stimulus which kept the Egyptian people and economy going. Joseph did accept payment for food, but it is hard to believe that Egypt turned a profit on all of that grain.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Spiritual Reading of Judah (Genesis 43 to 45)

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*Based on ESV.com's Chronological Bible In a Year schedule. If anyone would like to join in, this blog's comments sections would be a good forum in which to share insights from the text.
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A Case for Spiritual Reading (Gen. 43-45)
It is a good idea to think of the spiritual realm when we read histories in the Bible.

Thinking this way means asking questions of the biblical text. "What was God's purpose here? What role might Satan have played?" These questions assume that you believe in predestination (i.e. God determines the outcome of all events before they happen) and that you believe in the existence of Satan and demons. The New Testament letters are so insightful because the authors -inspired by God to write- interpreted the Old Testament and recent history with these kinds of questions in mind. Those letters show us how to read the Bible.

The Hand of God In the Life of Judah
Now with that all of that in mind, let us think about the spiritual realm in Judah's life; let us interpret the book of Genesis spiritually. I will show you what I am talking about here. We will look at the book of Genesis the way Peter, Paul, John, James, Jude, and the writer of Hebrews might have done.

The Role of Satan In the Life of Judah
  • Encouraged Jacob's favoritism, which caused envy and discord
  • Stoked the anger and jealousy of Judah towards Joseph
  • Did this to break down and destroy the blessed family of Abraham
  • Put it in Judah's mind to sell Joseph to the Ishmaelite slave traders
  • Continued to pull Judah down into the spiral of sin (story of Tamar)

The Purpose of God In the Life of Judah

  • Supplied visions to Joseph which stoked the envy of Judah
  • Caused Judah and his brothers to go to Dothan - away from sight
  • Supplied a man to send Joseph into the hostile arms of Judah
  • Brought along the carriage of Ishmaelite slave traders just in time
  • Had Judah sell Joseph instead of killing him (softened his heart)
  • Did all of this to send Joseph before his brothers into Egypt
  • Humbled Judah through the episode with Tamar
  • Humbled Judah so that Joseph would reconcile with the family
  • Caused all of this to bring the Twelve Patriarchs to Egypt
  • Did all of this to keep Israel from blending in with evil cultures; no danger of that in Egypt, as "Egyptians could not eat with Hebrews, for that is an abomination to the Egyptians."

As we can see, what Satan and mankind often intend for evil (favoritism, anger, jealousy, selling Joseph to slavery, the sin of Judah with Tamar, etc.) God intends for good and has a purpose in it. After all, that is a central theme of these chapters of Genesis - check Genesis 45.8 and 50.15-21

Other comments and observations can be found in the comments section! Join in!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Bible In a Year (Genesis 41 to 42)

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*Based on ESV.com's Chronological Bible In a Year schedule. If anyone would like to join in, this blog's comments sections would be a good forum in which to share insights from the text.
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Yahweh Speaks Through Pharaoh
(Gen. 41)
If this detail about the dreams of Pharaoh strike you as unhistorical, that might be due to the fact that you do not actually know your history: dream reports are common in the writings of 1st century Jewish historian Josephus, and in the Roman historian Tacitus ("A ghastly dream appalled the general. He seemed to see Quintilius Varus, covered with blood..."), and in a lot of others. The way that the ancient groups told history was just different from the less engaging methods that North Americans use these days. My big thing is that God speaks through pharaoh. Pharaoh is not a prophet. He is a pagan king who set himself up as the embodiment of an Egyptian god. The fact that God gives him dreams and visions in this record shows me that (1) God is not limited to speaking only to one group of people; and (2) Yahweh is the Lord of all nations and cultures, whatever their preferred religion is. He has the right to reveal things to pagan rulers, like the King of Egypt, speak through them, judge them, whatever. All nations are responsible to come to Jesus, who is the only way to God the Father.

Other comments and observations can be found in the comments section! Join in!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Bible In a Year (Genesis 38 to 40)

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*Based on ESV.com's Chronological Bible In a Year schedule. If anyone would like to join in, this blog's comments sections would be a good forum in which to share insights from the text.
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On Politicians and Cult Prostitution (Gen. 38)
Judah, the father of Israel's kings and the ancestor (humanly speaking) of Jesus Christ, was a complete douche bag. I know that isn't polite. But I sat there trying to come up with another way to say it for about 15 minutes, and that word alone really carries the meaning of what I wanted to say. Let's recap: (1) Judah is said to have kept his youngest son from a young Canaanite woman named Tamar, with no intention to let her have him. This would have kept the otherwise re-marriageable woman in her father's house waiting for a husband -a vital support structure for women in those times- who would never come. (2) Things actually got so desperate for Tamar that she disguised herself like a cult prostitute and slept with Judah - meaning that Judah is having sex with prostitutes, which is a serious offense in the Torah. (3) Not only was Judah having sex with prostitutes, but they were cult prostitutes; Judah had apparently adopted the perverted practices of nearby religions. (4) After committing sexual immorality, he is recorded as having the gall to ask that Tamar be burned alive for 'cheating' on the son that he never intended to give to her. (5) On the good side, though, the record in Genesis shows that he humbled himself and admitted guilt in the end.

Other comments and observations can be found in the comments section! Join in!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Amillennialism: The Nitty Gritty


First Things First

The first view we are going to look at is amillennialism. I actually appreciate this view mainly because it is the most simple view of eschatology. Many popular theologians hold fast to this view, including J.I. Packer and Sam Storms. One quick note: I used Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology for a good majority of research, as well as a video entitled, An Evening Of Eschatology, that was filmed at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, MN and hosted by pastor John Piper. If you are interested, at the end of this study, I’ll put out some further reading you can do if eschatology interests you further.

The Problem Text
We’re going to come back to this text a number of times during our study, but I want to show it now so we can see why amillennialists hold to their theory:
Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while.

Then I saw thrones, and seated on them were those to whom the authority to judge was committed. Also I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for the testimony of Jesus and for the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or its image and had not received its mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.
On the surface this view looks very promising. To quote Mr. Grudem, “According to this position the passage in Revelation 20.1-10 describes the present church age. This is an age in which Satan’s influence over the nations has been greatly reduced so that the gospel can be preached to the whole world. Those who are said to be reigning with Christ for the thousand years are Christians who have died and are already reigning with Christ in heaven.”

This is the basic belief of Amillennialists. When you boil it all down to its simplest form, that’s what they believe. Also, below is a chart showing how they perceive all of the events taking place:


Some Distinctions
I apologize if you can't read the chart. It looked better in Google Docs. Notice that the millennium is currently happening. Also notice that there is no tribulation as Premillennialists and Postmillennialists ascribe to. The third important thing to notice is there is only one resurrection (more on that in a minute). Both the believers in Christ and unbelievers in Christ are raised at the same time. Directly after the resurrection is the eternal state (New Heavens and New Earth, New Jerusalem). Now it is time to look at some of the arguments from Scripture why Amillennialists believe the way they do.

Arguments For
The first argument that Amillennialists make is they feel that Satan is currently bound to the extent that Revelation 20:2-3 says he is. “According to the Amillennial interpretation the binding of Satan in verses 1-2 (of Revelation 20) is the binding that occurred during Jesus’ earthly ministry. He spoke of binding the strong man in order that he may plunder his house (Matt. 12.29) and said that the Spirit of God was at that time present in power to triumph over demonic forces: ‘If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you’ (Matt 12.28). Similarly, with respect to the breaking of Satan’s power, Jesus said during his ministry, ‘I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven’ (Luke 10:18)” (pg. 1115).

The second argument for Amillennialism is that Amillennialists hold that there is only one resurrection. They explain the “first resurrection” described in the Revelation 20 passage as “going to heaven to be with the Lord. This is not a bodily resurrection but a coming into the presence of God in heaven. In a similar way, when verse 5 says, ‘The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended,’this is understood to mean they did not come into God’s presence for judgment until the end of the thousand years’” (p. 1115). And to quickly point out, Amillennialists also believe the “first resurrection” can mean Christ’s resurrection, and the believer’s participation with Christ in that by means of salvation.

The third argument for amillennialism is that if there were a “future millennium, the very idea of 'glorified believers and sinners living together' is too difficult to accept” (p. 1116). This is a good point, and I pondered this myself when examining all views of the millennium in preparation for these posts. To quote Berkhof, “It is impossible to understand how a part of the old earth and of sinful humanity can exist alongside a part of the new earth and of a humanity that is glorified. How can perfect saints in glorified bodies have communion with sinners in the flesh? How can glorified sinners live in this sin-laden atmosphere and amid scenes of death and decay?”(p. 1116).

Lastly, the millennium seems to have no intended purpose. “Once the church age has ended and Christ has returned, then what is the reason for delaying the start of the eternal state?"

Arguments Against
So now that the arguments have been made for Amillennialism, let’s look at the rebuttals. In regards to argument one, this idea that Satan is bound in the current church age so that the gospel can spread unhindered is a little far fetched for me to believe personally. I have two simple points of rebuttal:
  1. An unobservant person can take a look at the current state of the world and see that Satan is not being bound, but is the main thrust of evil and sin in the world.
  2. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says “ In their case (speaking of those who are perishing) the god of this world (emphasis mine)has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (ESV).” That doesn’t sound to me like Satan is bound. You could just as easily point to Ephesians 6:11-12, 1 Peter 5:8-9, as well as other New Testament texts.
Secondly, amillennialists try to insist that the Scriptures only teach one resurrection on the argument that the Bible is vague on this matter. However, you cannot simply ignore Revelation 20 on this. It says there will be a first and second resurrection, implying therefore, that there will be a second. “The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years.” (Rev. 20:5-6). This passage makes it clear: if you are not in the “first resurrection”, then you are included in the “rest of the dead”. And if you are a part of the “rest of the dead” then there is a clear, definite teaching on two resurrections. FYI, other passages that amillennialists try to use to justify one resurrection are normally implications as opposed to truths. See Daniel 12:2 and John 5:28-29 for specific examples.

Thirdly, in the matter of glorified believers and sinners on the earth together is indeed hard to imagine, but the main evidence is Jesus. He spent forty days post-resurrection in a glorified body teaching and speaking to people. Also, remember after Christ’s death, there were those who were dead who were raised alive (Matt. 28:17). For some reason that story never made it on to the felt board in Sunday School when I was a kid. Weird. The idea is odd, but not out of the realm of possibility.

Fourthly, the purpose of the millennium may indeed lay a mystery until Christ’s return, but even if that is the case, isn’t God trustworthy enough to know what He’s doing? Grudem summarizes this point in three ways:
  • God would use the millennium to “show the outworking of God’s good purposes in the structure of society, especially the structures of the family and civil government.” (p. 1121)
  • The millennium will further vindicate God’s righteousness (towards those who will rebel against God in the end).
  • The millennium will reveal “God’s good pleasure to unfold his purposes and reveal more and more of His glory gradually over time.” (p. 1121)
Wrapping It All Up
So that’s Amillennialism, and I spell it wrong every time I type it! Hopefully by the end of this entire discussion on eschatology, we come back to a point we harp on a lot at The Voice: READ YOUR BIBLES. You can’t disagree with what you don’t know, and you only look ignorant when you make proof texts as your arguments. I know my personal Bible study has been enriched by this study, and as we move on to the other views of eschatology, it will become vital that we are rooted in truth as we try to explain things the way the Apostle John unpacks them, as well as how we interpret these passages. I pray that Christ would find us faithful to His word, and we echo the words of John where He says, “Come, Lord Jesus!” May Your kingdom come on this earth as it is in heaven Lord. For Your beautiful name in all the earth, come.

-ryan

Moscow Suicide Bomber Kills 35


A blast ripped its way through Domodedovo Airport in Moscow, Russia late last night, killing a total 35 human beings and injuring 130. The reports this morning are everywhere; from The Globe & Mail to The National Post to Al Jazeera, multiple viewpoints continue to pour in and report this latest act of terrorism. While the suicide attacker has not yet been identified -although the head of the suspected bomber has been found- most suspect that it is a Islamic militant from the North Caucasus region.

How the Bible Helps Us Understand
In the face of tragedies like these, we need to be in our Bibles. We need to think about these events through the lense of theological truth. If there was ever a time when the truths of the Bible mattered, if there was ever a time when the doctrinal beliefs of our people had any meaning, if only for one lingering moment, it is at times like these in the wake of utter devastation when we need them the most. Some truths to remember:

The Imago Dei (Image of God) reminds us that the deceased had importance as human beings; Total Depravity makes sense of these acts of terror by reminding us that sin has come into the world; Providence gives us the knowledge that God is still in control and that all things work together for the good of His creation; the doctrines of heaven and hell give us hope that God has a home prepared for Christians who are murdered in these kinds of events and that He will visit justice upon the perpetrators of these crimes. Righteous suffering reminds us that disaster happens to both the wicked and the righteous, and that not all tragedy is punishment for sin. What we believe here makes a difference.

The Reaction: Forgiveness and/or Capital Punishment
Now, as for our reaction to the Moscow Airport Bombing: On one hand, Jesus told us that instead of an eye-for-an-eye approach to justice, we should not resist the one who is evil and we should also love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Gospel of Matthew 5.38-39,43-45). But that is our individual responsibility as Christians. Our governments have the responsibility to uphold justice and to keep its people safe. On this other hand, then, we should remember that God decreed that "for your blood I will require a reckoning... From his fellow man I will require a reckoning for the life of man. Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image" (Book of Genesis 9.5-6). Taking these two together, we should forgive the group behind this bombing on an emotional level but also seek -and enforce- justice for the sake of the safety of our fellow human beings in Moscow and around the world.

The Gospel: Repent, or Ye Will Likewise Perish
We also need to take a solemn lesson from this horrible story. And it's not what you might think. When he was told about the tragedies of his day, meek and mild Jesus Christ had a message for his listeners: 'unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.' When a harsh dictator slaughtered Jews from Galilee and mingled their blood with their sacrifices, or when the Tower of Siloam fell and killed 18 in Jerusalem, Jesus said 'Do you think these people were worse than all others? No, I tell you, but unless you repent you will all likewise perish' (Gospel of Luke 13.1-5). Those who died in Moscow last night were not worse than all the other people from Moscow. These were not worse than all people from Canada, or the United States, or Europe. But, like Jesus would have, I feel it's necessary to point out that unless you repent and follow Him, you will all likewise suffer too, in conscious eternal torment in Hell. To leave that out would be unfair to you. If you are a non-Christian, please reconsider your position. If you are a Christian, let terrorist acts like these remind you of the urgency of the need to evangelize: the need for the Gospel is real, life is short, and death comes suddenly.

The Gospel that you are asked to believe -both non-Christians and professing believers- is that you are sinful in God's eyes and that Jesus died to take your punishment; that He was resurrected on the third day; that He is the only way to God and the only way to be saved from the justice of God's anger; and that this has been done for you because your Maker loves you and He asks you to turn around and come back to Him. Here is the Gospel as it is laid out in St. Paul's Letter to the Romans, chapter 5:
But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. -Romans 5.8-11
Let this Gospel be your warning and your hope as you read through the news today. God bless.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Beginning of Israel - Genesis 32 to 34

THE GREATEST PRAYER IN GENESIS
[Genesis 32.] It is fear time for Jacob: Esau is on the way to meet him with 400 men. His possessions are split into two camps. He is separated from his wives and children. so he kneels down and prays "Oh God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, oh Yahweh who said to me, 'Return to your country and to your kindred, that I may do you good,' I am not worthy of the least of all the deeds of steadfast love and all the faithfulness that you have show to your servant, for with only my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps. Please deliver me from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau, for I fear him, that he may come and attack me, the mothers with the children. But you said, 'I will surely do you good, and make your offspring as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.'" (Genesis 32.9-12) This is the best prayer in the book. I would study this. I know that I left out the much-loved section where Jacob is said to have wrestled Jesus (Genesis 32.24-30), but I want to focus in on the less-noticed parts here.

THE WORK OF GOD IN THE HEARTS OF MEN
[Genesis 33.] Esau, by the sheer grace of God, does not slaughter Jacob. God answered Jacob's prayer and changed Esau's rage into mirth. By the time Jacob reaches him it seems like the ol' ginger wolfman is pretty glad to see his long-lost brother. Except for the suspicious-looking 400 man army behind him, he seems pretty nonchalant ("Oh, these 400 men? Why, I didn't even notice them there!"). Two lessons to take from this: I. God's actions and man's go together. Even though God changed Esau's heart and Jacob had faith that He would, Jake still devised a plan to win his brother. Sometimes God chooses to work through our actions. II. Man's actions and God's go together. Even though Jacob developed a good plan and followed through with it, He still relied on God to do the real work. God can work without our actions, but our actions can't work without God.

THE LEVITICAL ART OF WAR
[Genesis 34.] Thousands of years before Sun Tzu ever wrote "To subdue the enemy without fighting is the acme of skill," Levi and Benjamin avenged their sister's honor by suddenly wiping out a small city-state. And they did it by themselves, walking all over their victims after luring them into circumcising every man in the town for the sake of a treaty. The specifics on morality are hazy here: on one hand, they looted, pillaged, and wiped out an entire people. And they lied. On the other hand, the two brothers had a point when they asked Jacob "should we have let Shechem treat our sister like a prostitute?" This is the part of Genesis that I have the hardest time with. Whatever the case, God works through all actions and circumstances, and nothing happens on this earth outside of his perfect will.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

The Weekend Report - Genesis 25-31

Text ColorPassing on the Abrahamic Torch
[Genesis 25-26.] Thursday came with some changes. The writer of Genesis ends his history of Abraham in chapter 25, and focuses more in chapter 26 on Isaac taking on the faith and promises of his father (as well as a few repeated sins). Isaac has grown from the promised child, to helpless teenage sacrifice, to the new Abraham here. Genesis doesn't claim to give a complete history of the people and events it describes. Not even close. But in these snapshots, we get to see our fathers in the faith at different stages. We get to relate to Isaac as children; as teenagers; as men making their way in the world; and then finally as old, accomplished men ready to give our blessings to the younger generation. Abraham's story has ended, and for one, solitary little chapter, Isaac's has just begun (Jacob takes over in the next chapter). The torch has passed. A new day is coming. And, 4000 or so years later, how will you take Abraham's torch from Isaac and run with it?

You Must Begin At the Beginning
[Genesis 27-29.] No generation starts off with everything covered. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob - each does his own work and builds on the family's legacy. Jacob especially: although he was blessed by his father and given Esau's birthright, we are told that he crossed the Jordan with only his staff and came back with enough possessions to be two camps. He grows too. He turns from an indoors kind of guy to a full-time shepherd; from tricking his blind father to trusting in Yahweh; from dirt poor and penniless to ridiculously rich; from single to married with kids. He starts to take on more responsibilities and gets less radical as the years go on. He crossed the Jordan a tricky, deceiving young man. He came back a responsible family patriarch. He is a testament to the fact that you usually do not start where your parents were. You start at the bottom and work a dead-end job shepherding (or something else) while you build wealth. You get married. You start a family. I'm getting married in a couple of months. This is where my mind is right now.

On Marrying the Boss' Daughters
[Genesis 30-31.] Okay, so Jacob never planned to marry both of Laban's daughters, stay on as his shepherd for 20 years (originally just a year or two, while Esau's anger subsided) then have to escape by night to get back to his home land with his wives to start his new family. But he probably needed the time to become a new man; back home he was only the lesser-loved son of a father who took favorites (Isaac picked up that trait with Rachel's sons though), who only narrowly escaped "dwelling away from the fatness of the earth" through his mother's devious actions by tricking an old blind man. The kid grew up around preferential treatment of others by his father. That causes some identity issues. So, back to marrying the boss' daughters: as Jacob found out, this isn't necessarily a great way to get a raise. And even if it was, you still shouldn't try. People are evil. A guy like Laban would sell his own daughters for a husk of corn. Sometimes people are successful because they are very good at taking advantage of others. Laban was like that. So be aware before you marry at work. That's a word to you office dwellers.

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*Based on ESV.com's Chronological Bible In a Year schedule. If anyone would like to join in, this blog's comments sections would be a good forum in which to share insights from the text.
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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Eschatology: An Intro And Brief Synopsis



Last year I set out to dig into the theology of the Holy Spirit and decide for myself what I thought Scripture taught as well as what the most denominations taught in regards to the aforementioned. This year I want to do the same thing and tackle eschatology. You all should know that eschatology and I haven't always mixed well. I grew up in a Christian home, but my parents were never shy about talking about the Second Coming. Fast forward to my 18th year and my church went on an "eschatology crusade" to the effect that if you didn't believe Jesus was coming back within the year you were a little ostricized and you clearly didn't know the Scriptures like you should.

Looking back on that time it's clear to see that certain views of eschatology dominate denominations, just like different views of church government, spiritual gifts, etc. What I want to do in the next unnamed amount of posts about eschatology is to unpack the major views, the arguments for that view, and look at what the Bible says about all of them. Also as a fair warning to all, I've been doing my homework on eschatology this past week, and I readily admit the waters get muddy real fast. So if you get confused, please don't fret; it's normal. Yesterday I was researching what Spurgeon's stance was on eschatology, and funny enough, he never really adhered to one, at least not in the pulpit or in print. If you want to check that out more, there's plenty to read on the Spurgeon Archive.

Please don't be afraid of studying eschatology. The end of eschatology is Jesus. The second Advent is about Jesus, not about end-time prophecy or Israel or the Antichrist. Once we understand that Jesus is the center of eschatology can we more fully understand it's place in the Gospel and the glorious reality that this life is not what we're here for. The next post we will dive into the first of four views concerning the end times/millenium views. Have a good day. :)

ryan

The Case for Murder and Dice - Genesis 22 to 24 (#12)


The Nature of Sin, Or When It's Fine to Kill Your Child

[Genesis 22.] What is sin, actually? Is something wrong in itself, or is it wrong only because God says that it is wrong? In what could almost seem like a cruel practical joke, God commands Abraham to burn his son alive and sacrifice him out of obedience to Him. Keep in mind that this is Abraham's only son. So Abraham goes and does it - or almost does, except for a last minute save from Jesus Christ in angelic form. What's interesting is that Abraham raising his knife to slaughter his child is portrayed as a good thing. In most other books of the Bible that would be the height of sinful behavior. But here is the nature of sin: it's rebellion against God. It has nothing to do with the action itself being bad (shaving isn't wrong, for example, but it is wrong if God tells me not to do it in Leviticus). Apparently, even murdering your own child is okay -required, even- if the the Big Guy clears it. What sin is and what it isn't are defined only by God.

The Case for Biblical Home Owners
[Genesis 23.] I am a big fan of renting as opposed to buying (although my future wife disagrees), so I feel like I'm shooting myself in the foot by commenting on this chapter. No, really - just read Genesis 23! What does Abraham get offered? Land that will still belong to someone else after he begins to use it. So what does Abraham try to get for himself? Land that he actually owns. And he pays a pretty high price for it too. There is just some security to being able to secure land for yourself and your children and their children. Abraham understands this so he turns down the cheap or free rental offers of the Hittites and lays down a large payment for a burial cave. The man has some business skills.

The Signs and Sovereignty of God
[Genesis 24.] I might be stepping on some slippery ground right here (although I think I did that already with the nature of sin), but Abraham's servant Eliezer seems like a good example of finding God's will through signs. Because he trusts that God is in control of things down to the last detail of every word of every conversation, he is able to make a specific prayer: "God, the woman who comes along and says [exact words here] and does [exact action there], I will know that she is my master's wife." What else could we use to find the will of God? All things being equal, a coin toss isn't all that different form casting lots in the Bible. Praying for specific things to happen is also a good one ("Lord, if it snows tomorrow and the wind comes in from the East and the temperature is only -5C..."). Some of my best decisions have come down to a prayer and a coin toss. Hey, God is sovereign right? Proverbs 16.33 says "The dice are thrown into the lap, but their every decision is from Yahweh."

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*Based on ESV.com's Chronological Bible In a Year schedule. If anyone would like to join in, this blog's comments sections would be a good forum in which to share insights from the text.
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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Adventures of Abraham - Genesis 12 to 21 (#11)


When God Keeps You Waiting, Take It Out On the Birds
[Genesis 12-15.] Abram believes God and his faith "is credited to him as righteousness." But that's just in verses one to six. Three minutes later, Abram is calling out with massive skepticism, "O Yahweh God, how am I to know that I shall possess this land?" I guess some things aren't really constant - but then again neither is my faith. That's why the messed-up guys in the Bible like Abram are so relatable. God has Abram cut some animals in half, then takes on the form of a torch and kettle, and passes between the slain beasts to affirm an oath that between the two of them. This was apparently pretty common (see Jeremiah 34.18). My favorite part is that He makes Abram wait: the stars are out just before Abram asks his skeptical question (Genesis 15.5), and by the time God answers it is nighttime again (Genesis 15.17). The wait is so long that birds of prey start to attack the offering. Abram started out with skepticism so God keeps him waiting - He teaches him trust. God doesn't give the answer right away. How many of us Bible-believing, Evangelical, saved-by-faith-alone types need a good lesson in trust?

*In the other chapters, God gives Abram a calling but no plan in Chapter 12, Lot follows his eyes and makes some bad choices in Chapter 13, and Melchizadek takes a tithe from Abram in Chapter 15.

Reasons To Be Monogamous (Besides Bathroom Availability)
[Genesis 16-18.] In Chapter 16, frustrated by the fact that it had been 10 years since God had promised to bless Abram, Sarai took matters into her own hands: she "gave her servant Hagar the Egyptian to Abram as a wife." Seems like a good idea right? It was culturally pretty normal to do this at the time (see Code of Hammurabi, 146). And clearly Abram didn't mind the arrangement either. But whatever allowances are there, polygamy always causes problems in the Bible. There is always a lot of hostility between the wives and something special about the husband-wife relationship is lost. In my country (Canada) there is a case before the courts that might actually legalize polygamy, and my fear is that many Christians -becoming aware that the command to be a one woman man is only applied to pastors and deacons in the New Testament (1 Timothy 3.2,12)- might inflict this on themselves. If you throw egalitarianism into that mix, we could be dealing with a lot of clear-cut sexual immorality (polyamorism) in the Church. It's a really tense situation. Pray for Canada.

Israel's Anti-Propaganda Propaganda
[Genesis 19-21.] In Chapter 19 we are 'treated' to the origin story of the Moabites and Ammonites, who are not Israel's favorite people. Some liberal scholars will tell you that this story is sheer propaganda and that the writer of Genesis was trying to cast these enemy nations as a group of incest-born knuckle dragging thugs. Nothing could be farther from the truth. On the basis of Lot's relation to Abraham (Lot is their father), Yahweh is actually recorded telling the Israelites not to fight against them (Deuteronomy 2.9). This record about Moab and Ammon is actually the basis of a non-aggression pact. It couldn't be any further from propaganda. In addition, Genesis casts a lot of Israel's enemy nations as brothers to them: Moab, Ammon, and Edom, for example.

*In the other chapters, Abraham and Sarah wait 13 years before giving birth to Isaac in Chapter 20, and Abraham makes some good business deals with Abimelech in Chapter 21.

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*Based on ESV.com's Chronological Bible In a Year schedule. If anyone would like to join in, this blog's comments sections would be a good forum in which to share insights from the text.
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Monday, January 17, 2011

The End of Suffering - Job 25 to 42 (#10)


Zero to Sixty In Four Paragraphs
Blogging through Job feels a lot like finding something new to say about regular porridge. You might love it, but there's only so much to share before you've run out of things to talk about. There is a lot of repetition in the book, and since there's no inspired narrator speaking (except in the first and last bits) there's not much to grab onto and analyze after a while. For that reason, I decided to take a break -slow down to zero and take care of some other things in the meantime- and then come back for this seventeen chapter marathon sprint through the last chapters of the book. Keeps things interesting.

Job Gets His Close-Up Shot 
[Job 25-31.] Bildad the Shuhite tries to answer Job. Job defends his honor for six full chapters. You know what, it's nice to see Job get a chance to really defend himself. Obviously he has the utmost respect for God (Job 26.5-14); he also knows that he's innocent (Job 27.1-6) and that he is suffering without cause (Job 30.25-26). His closing bit in Job 31 is rousing stuff: he lists off sins that people accuse him of and asks God to rain elaborate curses on him if they are true. Here are a list of the things that he mentions:
1. Deceit. "If I have walked with falsehood... then let me sow, and another eat, and let what grows for me be rooted out."

2. Adultery. "If my heart has been enticed toward a woman and I have lain in wait at my neighbor's door... let my wife grind for another, and let others bow down on her."

3. Slave Abuse. "If I have rejected the cause of my servant... that fire consumes as far as Abaddon, and it would burn to the root all my crop."

4. Withholding Goods From the Poor. "If I have withheld anything that the poor desired... let my shoulder blade fall from its shoulder and my arm be broken from its socket."

and the list goes on...
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Elihu
[Job 32-37.] Job and his friends must have been talking for a long time by now, because the youth are starting to show up to watch them argue. This must have been what people did before television. Filled up with the Spirit of God -or possibly sugar snacks- Elihu shows up out of absolutely nowhere and takes it to Job for a long while. Elihu lets us know that advanced age doesn't necessarily equal wisdom: "I am young in years and you are aged... but it is the Spirit in man that makes him understand. It is not the old who are wise, or the aged who understand what is right." After telling Job to repent a few times and leveling some accusations against him (we never find out whether or not these charges are accurate), all the while talking about how God does not pervert justice, Elihu takes some inspiration from the whirlwind that starts to show up in Job 36.27-37.24 and gives some hymn-worthy lines about the majesty and fear of Yahweh ("At this also my heart trembles and leaps out of its place"). At the end of the book, Elihu is never made to repent by God.

*Elihu describes the wicked, at the end of their lives, as washed up celebrities and corporate executives: "They die in youth, and their life ends among the cult prostitutes."

A Little Chat With the Old, Old, Old Man
[Job 38-42.] Have you ever seen your father really angry? Now you've seen God that way with one of His children - Job. What you'll notice is that the relationship is back to normal right away. To disprove any ideas about Job being right throughout the book, God says "who is this that darkens counsel without knowledge?" To disprove the idea that we can unload on God and He won't care, the Lord calls Job a "faultfinder" in Job 40.2 and takes a strip out of Job's back by saying "Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right?" (Job 40.7-8). The interesting part is that Job's friends were partly right all along; Job repents in chapter 42 and God restores him. And God is just as upset at Job's words as Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu were.

*Eliphaz and his buddies don't get off the hook though. God says that Job got Him right. This is just after God said that Job got Him wrong. If you have any solutions, let me know.

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*Based on ESV.com's Chronological Bible In a Year schedule. If anyone would like to join in, this blog's comments sections would be a good forum in which to share insights from the text.
 
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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Bible In a Year - Job 20 to 23 (#9)


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*Based on ESV.com's Chronological Bible In a Year schedule. If anyone would like to join in, this blog's comments sections would be a good forum in which to share insights from the text.
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Righteous: An Epic Match Between Contenders for the Faith
[Job 20/21.] In the left corner, Zophar re-enters the conversation weighing in at a trim 29 verses. In the right, Job hails from chapter twenty-one at a slightly larger 34. Zophar starts off with a jab, pointing out that the godless eventually get their due: "The joy of the godless is momentary... though his loftiness reaches the heavens... he perishes forever like his refuse." But Job does a bob and a weave, connecting with a straight-forward denial: "The wicked... is carried to the grave... who will repay him for what he has done?... all men will follow after him, while countless ones go before him... your answers remain full of falsehood." The irony is that both Job and Zophar are in the right here. The wicked eventually get their due (in hell) and they often go unpunished (on earth). See what kind of existential angst comes out of not knowing about life after death? Both Job and Zophar are servants of God, but their lack of knowledge about rewards/punishment after death puts them on opposite sides of a very ugly fight.

Mud Slinging: Insults Worthy of Political Ads
[Job 22.] Zophar tags in Eliphaz, who brings in the heaviest accusations since Bildad slandered Job's dead children in chapter 8. Eliphaz has been the major total depravity guy in his last two showings (check back here and here), saying that all men are guilty before God - a sort of gentle way of saying "so if you don't think you're that guilty, well, everyone has some sin... repent of whatever that is for you." Now Eliphaz just starts naming all of the horrible things Job must have done to deserve his fate: "Are not your iniquities without end? You have taken pledges of your brothers without cause... stripped men naked... withheld water from the thirsty... withheld bread from the hungry... have sent widows away empty... have crushed the strength of orphans... therefore snares surround you, and sudden dread terrifies you." I've been meaning to point out that Eliphaz (though completely mistaken about Job) is right about the fact that man is given to sin, and that everyone needs to repent before God. So in general Eliphaz is right. Specifically, about Job's situation, he is dead wrong. We need to repent of our depravity. But to say those things about Job, Eliphaz must be a complete... not-nice person.

Humble Confidence: 'I Am Innocent, and I Desire to Meet God'
[Job 23 + 24.] After getting pummeled by Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar for over 20 chapters, Job (who is at this point seriously misunderstood) says that he would love to just come before God and ask some questions. He stills believes that God is good, even if He does seem to allow evil: "I would... perceive what He would say to me... would He contend with me by the greatness of His power? No, surely He would pay attention to me... there the upright would reason with Him and I would be forever acquitted by my Judge" (Job 23.5-7). So this is Job's dilemma the entire time: Job knows that God is good (Job 23.5-7), but sees that He does not punish the wicked (Job 24). He still maintains his innocence though. "I have not departed from the command of his lips: I have treasured the words of his mouth more than my portion of food" (Job 23.12).

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*By the way, I completely switched back from the NASB to the ESV in the middle of that last paragraph. I can't believe how badly the NASB butchered Job 24.22. Not only did the NASB switch from a more-literal rendering (ASV) to a less-literal one, but they made the verse harder to understand, changed its meaning, and confused the whole chapter there at the same time. I wouldn't recommend reading Job in the NASB.

Bible In a Year - Job 17 to 19 (#8)

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*Based on ESV.com's Chronological Bible In a Year schedule. If anyone would like to join in, this blog's comments sections would be a good forum in which to share insights from the text.
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Hopeless: 'My Spirit Is Broken, My Days Are Extinguished'
[Job 17.] So I'm reading this chapter, and it's about hopelessness - and sometimes I feel like I can relate. I know Job has more serious issues than I do; he lost his ten children, all of his riches, and his medical health all in one day. He has reasons to wail. At some point though, we all get a chance to say "My spirit is broken." You might have cancer and have to watch as your body deteriorates and you lose your ability to care for your family. Maybe you lost your job. Maybe you have a wife (or husband) who never lets up and treats you more like a dull child than a spouse, and you thought they would change, but it's been five years and nothing has changed at all. Can you relate to that? Job says he's given up on seeing good. As Christians we know that we will eventually see something better after we have moved on from this life, but during this life things can seem hard, frustrating, discouraging, and... well... downright hopeless.

Special Case: 'For Your Sake Is the Earth To Be Abandoned?'
[Job 18.] Bildad's frustrated line at Job got me thinking: "O you who tear yourself in anger - for your sake is the earth to be abandoned, or the rock to be moved from its place?" Like a lot of things that come out of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar's mouths, I can imagine myself asking this question (and I don't think it's a bad question either, even when someone is suffering). A lot of people demand special treatment in life. Because of their riches, success, abilities, celebrity status, poverty, bad circumstances, disabilities, or marginalization, they demand to be treated differently - to be noticed, to be paid attention to, to be a priority. This creates a society where every person is fighting to have their voice heard for some reason or another, and no person is taking the time to listen. It's sad. And whether or not Job is guilty of this, it's on the list of legitimate complaints that Bildad -who loves the Lord, by the way- has of people.

Iron Stylus: What If Our Words and Stories Were Written?
[Job 19.] Ironically, one of Job's rants (the one found here) contains the words "Oh that my words were written! Oh that they were inscribed in a book! That with an iron stylus and lead they were engraved in the rock forever!" Well Job, you're in luck. Book deal granted. No word on whether inscribing this on a rock was ever carried out. But imagine that our lives were also written down, like movie films and art novels, that the words we spoke and the lives we experienced were all written down or recorded at the end of our lives and put on the market for people to purchase. If we had good lives, people would buy hardcover copies and make movies with Denzel Washington as you. If our lives were unimpressive we'd be played by Tom Green. That really would make you want to change the way your life looked, wouldn't it? Job's life got written down and he became an example of endurance in suffering. Sometimes I wonder what my life would be an example of. High Halo 3 scores? A big bookshelf? Those don't seem like great stories.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Bible In a Year - Job 14 to 16 (#7)


Resurrection: Why Man Is Like a Tree Stump
[Job 14.] Job spends a chapter thinking about death, which he has been asking for up to now. He also gives his own version of Thomas Hobbes' saying that life is nasty, brutish, and short: "Man... is short-lived and full of turmoil. Like a flower he comes forth and withers. He also flees like a shadow and does not remain" (Job 14.1-2). At the same time, he holds out a faint hope that there must be something beyond this life. This isn't a full-fledged understanding of the resurrection or heaven or anything, but Job does wonder out loud, "There is hope for a tree, when it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and its shoots will not fail... If a man dies, will he live again?... You will call, and I will answer You; You will long for the work of Your hands" (Job 14.7-15).

"Heretic!": A Look At Theologians Behaving Badly
[Job 15.] Eliphaz and I would get along - but I'm not sure that's a good thing, necessarily. The truth is that I see eye to eye with Eliphaz and his buddies: I identify with their zeal, and I see my own faults in them. They just see things and they react. Eliphaz sees Job's slips, and points them out by asking "Why do your eyes flash, that you should... allow such words to go out of your mouth?" It's almost like he never even heard Job's lengthy, exalted description of the Lord in chapter 12; all he hears is "The tents of the destroyers prosper, and those who provoke God are secure," and he jumps to the conclusion that Job is saying God is corrupt. Calling someone a heretic is not wrong. But Eliphaz' example shows us that you can't level that charge at someone without listening really carefully to what they have to say. Eliphaz is actually not wrong in his theology here, and if Job was saying what he thought Job was saying, there would be no problem. But he's just not listening to Job very well.


Graphic Violence: Man Set Up As Human Bullseye
[Job 16.] Man - Job must feel like the loneliest, most pitiful guy in the world. He calls God his adversary who "gnashes at me with His teeth" and "glares at me," and at the same time He has "grasped me by the neck and shaken me to pieces." In one of the more gruesome mental images of God's judgment in the Bible, Job imagines himself as a human bullseye on the target board and God as the militant archer: "He has also set me up as His target. His arrows  surround me - without mercy, He splits my kidneys open; He pours out my gall on the ground; He breaks through me with breach after breach." But Job still maintains that there is no violence on his hands, and his prayer is pure. He is not suffering for having done something wrong.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Bible In a Year - Job 10 to 13 (#6)


Discussion: Why the Narrator Steps Back
[Job 10.] The more that I read Job the more that I find to appreciate in the book. The thing doesn't have a narrator or record the sayings of God -except for the first couple chapters and the last four, to give context- so we have to take a lesson from the book as a whole rather than find some kind of authority in the statements made in every chapter. Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu make some true and majestic statements about God and His action in the world, and so does Job, but we only get to agree with those statements based on what we already know about God. In the meantime, we get to see Job and his friends go back and forth -like a group of New York Rabbis- about the nature of God's providence. And we're shown the recorded frustration of this great man of God: "I loathe my own life... I will speak in the bitterness of my soul... Have You eyes of flesh? Or do you see as a man sees?... You know that I am not guilty, yet there is no deliverance from Your hand... Why then have You brought me out of the womb? Would that I had died and no eye had seen me!" (Job 10.1-18)

The Octagon: Better Insults Than Shakespeare
[Job 11.] Next up to bat is Zophar, and while he doesn't go so far as to say that Job's children deserved to die, he sure gives Job a dressing-down in Job 11.4-5: "You have said 'My teaching is pure, and I am innocent in Your eyes.' But would that God would speak, and open His lips against you, and show you the secrets of His wisdom!" Zophar tells Job to repent of whatever sin he committed, so that God would bless him and take away his pain. He also hands out a pretty magnificent insult, using "when pigs fly" terminology (Job 11.12): "An idiot will become intelligent when the foal of a wild donkey is born a man." I've got to admit, I'm reading these back-and-forth jabs like a spectator at an MMA match, wincing and peering over intently at the action, all while sort of imitating the action as I go. I'm not saying that Zophar is in the right here, but -on the rare occasion when an insult is called for in a debate- I'll be remembering some of these. I also like Zophar's picture of the Almighty: "Can you discover the depths of God?... They are high as the heavens... Deeper than Sheol... who can restrain Him?"

Translation: Job As Pre-Teen Drama In the CEV
[Job 12.] Job steps in to defend himself against Attacker #3, and does so with wit and sarcasm: "Truly you are the people, and with you wisdom will die!" (On a translation note: I was comparing the NASB -which I use here- and the CEV paraphrase, and I can't help but notice that Job comes off as a self-pitying junior high student in the CEV; "You think you are so great, with all the answers... now friends make fun of me." Not saying that paraphrases are all bad, but there is a reason why I don't have one as my main translation.) Job also says that it is easy for someone who is well-off to dismiss the those less fortunate and to say that they deserve what they get (Job 12.5). Maybe we should pull out this verse next time a Christian pulls out an "all poor people are lazy" line. As with Zophar, I love Job's vision of God in all His power. I can't do justice by quoting bits and pieces, but here is a link to the text: Job 12.13-25.

Bad Maxims: Sometimes, Cheaters Win and Winners Cheat
[Job 13.] When you grew up did your parents, teachers, and coaches ever tell you that "cheaters never win, and winners never cheat?" Well that isn't true. Not in this life, at least. Job points out in chapter 12 that "the tents of the destroyers prosper, and those who provoke God are secure," which lines up pretty well with what we know of the influence and affluence of everyone from tyrants like North Korean leader Kim Jong-il to the exploitative and self-indulgent founder of Playboy, Hugh Hefner. Here Job challenges his attackers and sort of questions God's goodness, based on his observation that the righteous fail and the wicked prosper: "Hear my argument and listen to the contentions of my lips. Will you speak what is unjust for God, and speak what is deceitful for Him? Will you show partiality for Him? Will you contend for God?" This is probably one of the lines that gets Job into trouble at the end of the book, but his argument is valid: sometimes good men really do get the short end of the stick, and God does seem to bless deeply wicked and evil people.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bible In a Year - Job 6 to 9 (#5)


Insensitive: How Eliphaz Got It Wrong
[Job 6.] Some of us have read Job before, and we know how it ends: God tells Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar that they have spoken wrongly of Him while Job has gotten Him right. That's confusing. These three defend God's integrity and righteousness; Job wonders aloud whether the Lord is a sadistic power-tripping ogre. Something just seems off. We know that Eliphaz (and co.) got Job wrong, but how could they have misrepresented God? And -are you kidding me- Job is actually right? Didn't he get owned by Yahweh from a whirlwind for trying to "condemn [God] that [Job] may be justified?" Obviously Job said some wrong things about God. Here is what the great commentator Matthew Henry (1662-1714) had to say about this passage:
"God tells them plainly that they had not spoken of him the thing that was right, like Job, that is, they had censured and condemned Job upon a false hypothesis, had represented God fighting against Job as an enemy when really he was only trying him as a friend, and this was not right. Those do not say well of God who represent his fatherly chastisements of his own children as judicial punishments and who cut them off from his favour upon the account of them. Note, It is a dangerous thing to judge uncharitably of the spiritual and eternal state of others, for in so doing we may perhaps condemn those whom God has accepted, which is a great provocation to him; it is offending his little ones, and he takes himself to be wronged in all the wrongs that are done to them." -Commentary on the Whole Bible, Job 42.7-9
Here Eliphaz and his buddies get God wrong, not by insisting on His righteousness, but by misrepresenting what He is doing with Job - they keep saying that God is punishing Job for hidden sin, and Job keeps saying that this isn't the case. God is actually "trying him as a friend." Eliphaz' advice is good and his theology is solid (aside from being one of those health-and-wealth types, but so is Job) but he doesn't take the situation and life of his friend into account and so does not take the opportunity to change his mind about some things. As a result he ends up misrepresenting God's providence, therefore misunderstanding God, and slandering Him. On a relationship level, they just leave Job feeling like he's alone: "For a despairing man there should be kindness from his friend."

Existentialism: Clothed With Maggots and Encrusted With Dirt
[Job 7.] Even if you believe that God is good, that He is in control of all things, and that there is a purpose for everything that happens, that doesn't stop the pain when you finally lose everything. In this book, all of Job's children die. He wakes up a billionaire and goes to bed homeless. He is left with a disease that gives him chronic physical pain. Some of what Job says just needs to be let go, because he is only speaking out of his frustration: even he says "Do you intend to reprove my words, when the words of one in despair belong to the wind?" (See Job 6.26.) In certain situations, you just need to be where you are at; King David often poured out his pain to God in frustration and anxiety, even though he knew full well that God has things covered; Jesus wept for
the death of his friend Lazarus even though He knows about paradise and life after death. That is what Job is doing here, and it's healthy. Guidelines? Don't curse God, and don't slander Him. But that doesn't mean you can't pour out your hurt. Job gives us a good example of that.

Providence: A Purpose, But Not A Punishment
[Job 8+9.] Job is a health-and-wealth
guy, who believes that God rewards faithfulness with riches. He also believes in providence, meaning that God is in control over everything ("if it is not He that does it, who is it?" - Job 8.24). This means that -like any good Calvinist- Job and his friends see something happening and ask "what is God's purpose in this?" They just don't know that suffering can be something other than a punishment so they assume that suffering equals hidden sin. I went through a rough patch like this maybe a year ago. I was holding about three jobs at once, and about a week after I picked up a new line of work everyone's hours would inevitably get cut in half or the business would die down (and in furniture moving and funeral work, which is what I did, business dictates how much you can expect to make). I wasn't a bad worker - my bosses kept telling me that I was doing a great job and I was even in line to become management at one store I where I worked. But God just wasn't blessing anything that I was doing. I tried for about five months to figure out what I had done wrong (like Job, I found lots of little sins, but nothing especially bad) or understand where I was ignoring His will for my life, but no success there either. I believe that God has a purpose for everything. I believe in providence. So while I am not into the prosperity Gospel, I still take suffering as a chance to look at myself and see whether I am in sin. But Job teaches me something about providence & suffering: misfortune doesn't have to mean punishment from God. It could just be a time of testing and a chance to persevere. What do you guys think about that? Any push back?