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The Role of Satan in the Book of Job: Sermon 2

Discussion in 'Semper Reformanda' started by abacabb3, Oct 19, 2015.

  1. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

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    In this week's sermon, the historical dating and literary criticism is commented on in the beginning. For the rest of the lesson, the role of Satan in the Book of Job is covered.

    To review the last lesson in one sentence, Job is a book about why evil exists and how God works it for His glory. Remember, “evil is bad, but it is good to have evil.” We will explore how God makes this work.



    This is a very difficult topic, so I ask that you prayerfully consider the teaching of the Scripture here and to ask questions in light of what is being taught. Please pray for me, that I may be teaching truthfully.

    The Book of Job is not about a man who sinned against God, and God punished him; or about a man whose faith necessarily needed pruning at the moment. Rather, Job is a man who is clothed in the righteousness of Christ and has confidence that he has a righteousness that is not his own, and yet by God’s sovereign hand is thrusted into suffering. The book is about why righteous people suffer. This is something that many faithful Christians with sick children, money problems, and other issues deal with on a daily basis.

    Job shows us what happens behind the scenes. Unbeknownst to us as well as Job when we suffer, all of us are in the middle of a gigantic spiritual battle between God and Satan. When God asks Satan what he is up to, he replies that he is merely “roaming about on the earth and walking around on it” (Job 1:7). Just what does he mean? The Scripture says, “The devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). We should presume “roaming” is a euphemism for prowling.

    Who is Satan? He is “the Accuser,” which is what “Satan” means in Hebrew. Living up to his name, he accuses Job’s piety of being phony when God broaches the topic:

    The Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil.” Then Satan answered the Lord, “Does Job fear God for nothing? Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.” Then the Lord said to Satan, “Behold, all that he has is in your power, only do not put forth your hand on him” (Job 1:8-12).

    God is the instigator. It may seem odd that God and Satan appear to be getting along at some level--this implies that this whole episode has happened more than once. God asks a leading question to Satan and being that He knows the future, already anticipates Satan’s response. The conclusion is inescapable: God had sought to create this whole episode around Job while Satan seeks to exploit God in His “moment of weakness” and prove God wrong. Of course it is foolish that Satan thinks He could prove the One whose “understanding is infinite” (Psalm 147:5) wrong, but apparently he views this as an opportunity too good to pass up.

    Satan’s motivation is obvious: he wants to drag Job to Hell with him and prove that his temptation to sin by turning his back on God is stronger than the resolve God puts in a man to be faithful.

    God’s possible motivations are not as clear, though from other parts of the Scripture we can infer the following possibilities:

    1. God had Job go through this experience knowing that it would be instructive. Oftentimes, we suffer because it puts us in the position to help others when they go through suffering. Elsewhere in the Scripture it says that bad things have happened to people in history so that it can teach us:
    For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea...Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness. Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved (1 Cor 10: 1, 6).

    1. The episode with Job was an opportunity in which to glorify Himself and deal Satan another defeat. We do not always view the world this way, but that’s because we wrongly think the world revolves around us.
    Let’s take an opposite example: our election. We may feel that God elects us because He loved us too much to go to Hell. However, God desires that all men come to repentance (1 Tim 2:4), so He has compassion for everyone. Yet, not all men are saved.

    Why?

    What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory (Rom 9:22-23).

    In other words, God puts up with those who will not be saved so His glory is seen in all its greatness in the eyes of those in whom God had mercy. Hence, He saved whom He wills for His sake, not ours. God reminds us again and again that He does not show mercy or love to us “for your sake, people of Israel, ... but for the sake of My holy name” (Ezek 36:22).

    So, if God forgives us not because we are more deserving of compassion but rather for His glory, why can’t God cause us to suffer also for His glory? It’s a two way street.

    Satan’s accusation is simple: “[N]o one is doing right who acts unwillingly, even if what he does is good in itself” (Saint Augustine, Confessions). Anthony Burgess had the same idea in A Clockwork Orange. People are not good even if their works are, because if someone is good out of compulsion then he is just acting out of fear of punishment or desire for reward. Hence, the accusation is that Job is acting pious, but his motivations are not. True piety would mean loving God whether or not He blessed you.

    If Job is a phony, then can any man ever offer God true worship and devotion? Satan’s accusation, if true, destroys any pretense of a legitimate relationship man can have with God. These are very high stakes.

    Why would God allow such a devious accuser to exist? Satan [unbeknownst to him] works for God. It appears when God intends for trial or evil to befall a man, God takes an active role in regulating the extent where Satan can operate. So, this means that evil itself is not outside the control of God.

    God is “not the author of evil,” so He created Satan so that he would do evil and that it could be regulated in the sense that good could come out of it. Even though this is true, we can be assured of His perfect righteousness and total lack of evil: “For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; No evil dwells with You” (Psalm 5:4).

    Remember, God is not evil, because he brings good out of evil. However, we cannot avoid the clear Scriptural teaching that God wants the temporary existence of evils. For example, though we know that He does not take pleasure in wickedness, God hardened Pharaoh’s heart so as to bring judgment upon him. It would seem to us that the better course, and thereby less evil one, would be to not harden his heart so he would have been less evil to the Israelites.

    Some people are not comfortable with the idea that God directly hardens hearts, because that sounds like God is directly causing evil instead of indirectly using Satan to entice men to do the evil that they want to do anyway. Theologians R.C. Sproul and Mark Kielar argue that God does not actually harden anyone’s heart, rather, He withdraws grace from the unbeliever so the depths of the already present evil in that person’s heart in effects harden’s that own person’s heart. “All that God must do to harden anyone’s heart is to withhold His own grace; that is, He gives a person over to himself,” says Sproul. So, God really initiates the hardening, but doesn’t really do it.

    Is there truth to this? Martin Luther made an useful illustration of how this all works in accordance with God’s will:

    Since, therefore, God moves and does all in all, He necessarily moves and does all in Satan and the wicked man. But He so does all in them, as they themselves are, and as He finds them: that is, as they are themselves averse and evil, being carried along by that motion of the Divine Omnipotence, they cannot but do what is averse and evil. Just as it is with a man driving a horse lame on one foot, or lame on two feet; he drives him just so as the horse himself is; that is, the horse moves badly. But what can the man do? He is driving along this kind of horse together with sound horses; he, indeed, goes badly, and the rest well; but it cannot be otherwise, unless the horse be made sound (Section LXXXIV, Bondage of the Will, emphasis added).

    Total Depravity is an essential doctrine. Luther’s, Sproul’s, and Kieler’s contention is God can shove the man to the left, to the right, or in any way. The man’s response, in his natural state, is only evil. So, the default response of man is evil and if God merely taps him, under this theory, the reflex to the tap will be evil. If man is always evil, apart from God willing by His grace to create a new nature in a man that is not evil but good, then God is totally unconnected to the evil that exists in the heart of man.

    How do we break the chain of total depravity? The opposite of our total depravity is what Augustine calls “Grace Upon Grace.” In Augustine’s On Free Will and Grace, Augustine exegeted John 1:16, which states that “we all have received grace upon grace,”to mean that God gives us the grace of faith, which is a good work. God blesses those who do good. So, as a response to the good He put in the man, He gives the man more grace to do even more good as a reward for the good within man. It becomes a beneficial snowball effect in man and God is just in His blessing.

    Back to Total Depravity: the opposite of grace upon grace is punishment upon punishment in Rom 1. The men who “though they knew God, they did not honor Him” were punished for this lack of honor by having God “darken” their hearts (Rom 1:21). As a result, those men “[p]rofessing to be wise...became fools” (Rom 1:22). In response, “God gave them over in the lusts” already existing in “their hearts to” increased “impurity” (Rom 1:24). As a response to impurity in their hearts God “gave them over” to acting upon “their degrading passions” (Rom 1:26). So, man starts out as evil. In response to this, God punishes the man by allowing the man to act upon the lusts in his heart. Because that lust is itself wicked, God punishes the man yet again by handing the man over to increased evil.

    Nothing separates those with grace or punishment. Those with grace upon grace were changed by the grace of God, and therefore reaped good fruits. Otherwise, they would be like the men of Rom 1, who without grace will dishonor God.

    It could be any one of us. Don’t say, “I can’t be that stupid and let myself hate God and be dragged through the gutter like that.” No! Apart from the grace of God, we are all that stupid. Look at the Apostles:

    Then He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all things which are written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be mocked and mistreated and spit upon, and after they have scourged Him, they will kill Him; and the third day He will rise again.” But the disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said (Luke 18:31-33).

    Left to ourselves we cannot understand. By simply not giving us knowledge, God can withhold the meaning of statements to us. In the same way, without giving us grace, we are handed over to our own evil.

    This is how God exploits Satan: He permits him to tempt men that want to be tempted and sin. The Biblical explanation is very close to what Luther talks about when he says, “He necessarily moves and does all in Satan and the wicked man.” God unleashes Satan on those in whom He wishes to harden. So, God does not do evil, but he allows Satan to tempt the man to evil by affecting his physical circumstances and playing to his emotions.

    Our clearest example of this is 2 Samuel 24:1 where it says:

    Now again the anger of the Lord burned against Israel, and it incited David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.”

    The parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 21:1 gives us even more insight:

    Then Satan stood up against Israel and moved David to number Israel.

    What do we know from this? God desired to punish Israel, so the Lord’s anger incited David to commit sin and do a census. The parallel passage in Chronicles tells us how: Satan moved David’s heart to do so.

    Remember, “God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone” (James 1:13). This interpretation allows God to use Satan to tempt people to sin, but God does not directly do it Himself. “The Tempter” is a name for Satan in Matt 4:3 and 1 Thes 3:5, after all.

    Satan is an idiot. He is not trying to purposely accomplish the purposes of God. He is in the business of tempting and devouring souls. Yet, God puts limits on Satan’s power in the world. Even though Satan is “the god of this world” (2 Cor 4:4) and “ruler of this world” (John 12:31), he can’t do absolutely anything he wants here.

    In the Book of Job Satan accuses God of putting a “hedge” (Job 1:10) around Job, in effect protecting Job from demonic assaults. To test Job’s resolve, God purposely removes the hedge (Job 1:11, 12) knowing what Satan would do. God often does this to all of us, to see what is in our hearts. This happened to Hezekiah when he sinned by proudly showing his wealth to Babylonian emissaries, who would later report about it and marshall forces to conquer Jerusalem: “God left him alone only to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart” (2 Chron 32:31).

    Hedge Removal and Grace Withdrawal. This should give us a window into what God’s “withdrawal of grace,” that R.C. Sproul speculates of, is all about. The removing of the hedge is the removing of grace. The protective hedge, therefore, is the grace God gives to protect people from demonic assault.

    In fact, what happened to Job also happened to Peter too. In Luke 22:31-34 Jesus says:

    Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” But he said to Him, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” And He said, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.”

    In both events, Satan asked for permission to destroy the respective Saint. God interceded for both (for Peter so that his faith may not fail) and Job (that he may be preserved him from death.) Both performed wickedness when grace was withdrawn (Peter denied Christ and Job impugned God’s motives.)

    As a side note, even though God is sovereign over whether we will commit evil, it is only because He can prevent us from doing it. So, our responsibility is to pray “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one”and to “resist the devil” so that “he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

    Take confidence, we can overcome temptation by God’s grace like Job. There may be no hope for unsaved people like Pharaoh to resist demonic temptation, but this is not true of God’s people. The Scripture says: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13).
     
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  2. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

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    Sermon 3: Satan's "Role" In Creation



    In our previous episodes in the Book of Job, we learned that the temporary existence of evil may in fact be good, as God works all things in accordance with His will. Further, we saw how Job suffered as a result of God's wager with Satan. That look behind the scenes gave us an insight into how God "works all in all the devil and the man" like Luther said. God works all-in-all by placing hedges that give evil a certain degree of free reign. However, it is only free inasmuch as God let's it get as far as the hedge but no farther.

    Now, picking up where we left off, Job is initially successful in avoiding any appearance of evil as a result of his trials. After disaster after disaster befalls Job, he still worships the Lord and declares, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” (Job 1:21--A lot like Michael’s response). There are commentaries that make note that Job is being naïve or shallowly rationalizing evil. However, such an interpretation is unnecessary. In the next verse it says that, “Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God” (Job 1:22). Hence, the Bible tells us that in such a situation, Job’s response was quite proper.

    Don’t feel bad for Satan, because he gets another go at it. First, he quotes a proverb that sounds strange to us: “skin for skin.” We may surmise that it has something to do with his contention that “all that a man has he will give for his life” (Job 2:5). In other words, man will throw anyone under the bus, including God, to save his own skin. To prove Satan wrong, God hands Job over to Satan, commanding him only to spare his life. Satan as a response brings Job close to the point of death.

    How should we understand the episode with Job’s wife? She nastily says: “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die” (Job 2:9)! What is she talking about? Recent commentators have tried taking a more “understanding” view of Job’s wife. After all, she just lost all of her children and possessions. She was shaken for obvious reasons. However, the text does not clue us in on the multi-dimensional nature of Job’s wife’s feelings. Instead, the Scripture appears to inescapably present her in a negative light. It would seem that her asking her husband to curse God is tantamount to her cursing God herself. Further, there are old adages that encapsulate what is really going on here: “to add insult to injury” or “to rub salt into the wound.” Simply, Satan has through trial used her to add to the misery of her husband. We know this to be the case, because it is the only explanation that makes sense given Job’s response: “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity” (Job 2:10)? The narrator then approvingly states that in all this Job did not sin with his lips.

    Did Job consider cursing God? Some commentators infer from Job not sinning with his lips that perhaps he did silently consider doing so with his heart. It would be only human if Job experienced doubts, because we all do when we have experienced much less than Job. There is some indication in the text that Job suffered for months after the episodes of chapters 1 and 2 before his friends arrived (Job 7:3) and he expected that it may take years to die (Job 16:22). It’s not like all of these bad things happened and Job started complaining about it. Job had day after day of pain and a whole lot of unanswered prayers. He might have not sinned with his lips, but may have been conflicted in his heart. Yet, he never cursed God and it is in reference to this that “the endurance of Job” is mentioned in James 5:11.

    Finally, Job’s friends come after hearing “of all this adversity that had come upon him” (Job 2:14). Job was so disfigured from the ailments, they did even not recognize him (Job 2:15). This may be a detail that gets glossed over, but it reflects how disturbing Job’s trial from Satan was. The friends “sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great” (Job 2:13). Their pity was genuine.

    After seven days Job loses his cool and wishes he’d never been born (Job 3:1, 3). He asks something we all ask during an intense period of suffering: Why did God put us on this Earth to feel such anguish? How could a good God let the world be this way? The main theme here is that he’d be better off dead than alive.

    In place of cursing God he “cursed the day of his birth” (Job 3:1). Between Job 3:3-10, it is apparent that Job is invoking creation when he’s doing this cursing. This is apparent in the mention of “darkness” (Job 3:4-7) as opposed to “light” (Gen 1:3-5) and the lack of “joyful shouts” (Job 3:7) instead of “shouting for joy” at creation (Job 38:7; Psalm 19:5).

    What is the connection between creation and Job’s view of his own suffering? It is my contention that the foundations of Job’s view of God’s nature have been shaken by his suffering and as a result, Job cannot make sense of his world anymore. Creation now appears to him chaotic instead of orderly and sensible. This is hard to think of in the modern day, because when we think of “creation” scientific precepts concerning natural laws and such dominate our thoughts. However, to a man like Job and to anyone who suffers and thinks “something’s wrong in the world today, I don’t know what it is,” like the Aerosmith song, there appears to be a moral component to existence. After all, if there was not such a component, it really would not matter whether or not people suffer. Because there is a moral fabric, many want to hold God to some sort of moral standard. We would like God to be good and not a malicious, terrifying god.

    Job’s world, with no loving God in sight, no longer makes sense to him. The world no longer seems ordered by God, but rather chaotic and meaningless. As a result, Job wishes that God never did His creative acts and speaks of rousing “Leviathan” (Job 3:8). In short, ancient mythology taught that before creation a “chaos dragon” stirred the seas so no one can live until a god slayed him. The habitable world was Leviathan’s corpse floating on the water.

    This myth of Leviathan appears throughout the Scripture. In Psalm 74:13-17 it states:

    You divided the sea by Your strength;
    You broke the heads of the sea monsters in the waters.
    You crushed the heads of Leviathan;
    You gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
    You broke open springs and torrents;
    You dried up ever-flowing streams.
    Yours is the day, Yours also is the night;
    You have prepared the light and the sun.
    You have established all the boundaries of the earth;
    You have made summer and winter.
    The dividing of the sea in Ps 73:13 is a reference to Gen 1 where God separates the waters and marks a line the waters cannot pass. In fact, several of God’s creative acts in Gen 1 are in reference to making order and divisions. In Gen 1:2-4,7 and 9 it states:

    The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light day, and the darkness He called night…God made the expanse, and separated the waters which were below the expanse from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so…Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so…
     
  3. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

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    God took a formless and void mass, where water was not differentiated from air or land and neither light was distinct from darkness, and He made sense of them by making them separate. It is impossible to even imagine what darkness combined with light, or water combined with land, looks like. God’s control over these chaotic waters is made clear in Psalm 104:9 (“You set a boundary that they may not pass over, so that they will not return to cover the earth.”) as well as in Job 7:12: “Am I the sea, or the sea monster, that You set a guard over me?” God’s mastery of Leviathan is the reason why the chaotic waters of the sea stay where they do at the tides. Job 38:10-11 (“And I placed boundaries on it, and set a bolt and doors, and I said, ‘Thus far you shall come, but no farther and here shall your proud waves stop’”), Prov 8:29 (“When He set for the sea its boundary so that the water would not transgress His command, when He marked out the foundations of the earth”), and Jer 5:22 (“I have placed the sand as a boundary for the sea, an eternal decree, so it cannot cross over it. Though the waves toss, yet they cannot prevail; Though they roar, yet they cannot cross over it.”) It would appear that the water can jump it’s tidal boundaries and plunge the world back into a chaotic, formless void if it were not for God’s intercession.
    Leviathan the sea monster is the personification of the chaos of the Earth before God mastered it by setting boundaries for the waters. Yet, there is something more to this chaotic sea monster. In light of Is 26:21-27:1, there is something demonic about Leviathan.The chaos dragon that wanted to thwart God in His creation, Leviathan, in the Scripture is a name for Satan.

    Is 26:21
    For behold, the Lord is about to come out from His place
    To punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity;
    And the earth will reveal her bloodshed
    And will no longer cover her slain.

    Is 27:1--
    In that day the Lord will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent,
    With His fierce and great and mighty sword,
    Even Leviathan the twisted serpent;
    And He will kill the dragon who lives in the sea

    Again, in the Book of Isaiah the mythical sea monster “Rahab,” which is a personification of Egypt is invoked:
    Awake, awake, arm of the Lord, clothe yourself with strength!
    Awake, as in days gone by, as in generations of old.
    Was it not you who cut Rahab to pieces, who pierced that monster through?
    Was it not you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep,
    who made a road in the depths of the sea so that the redeemed might cross over (Is 51:9-10)?

    When God saved the people of Israel from Egypt, he cut through the Red Sea and made it like dry land so the nation of Israel may cross over. The invoking of mythological dragons and the separating of waters is a reference to God defeating Satan, probably shortly after Creation.

    The connection between Rahab and Egypt is similar with that of Satan and Babylon. How so? Babylon is described as “a dwelling place of demons and a prison of every unclean spirit” (Rev 18:2). A common theme in Scripture is the practice of using places of captivity such as Egypt, Assyria, and Babylon to serve as images of the demonic realm, which is the place of mankind’s captivity to sin (described as “slavery to sin” in Rom 6:16). Freedom from captivity is always a picture of God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ’s atoning work on the cross.

    Let’s go back to Psalm 74:13 where Leviathan has several “heads.” Why would a singular sea monster have several heads? If the beast is indeed Satanic, it may reflect the several different names for Satan in the Book of Revelation. In the book there is a perverse trinity of the False Prophet, the Dragon, and the Beast/Anti-Christ. This is akin to Dante’s description in The Inferno where he gets a glimpse of Satan. Satan was frozen in ice and overcome by fury, with his three heads chewing on the three greatest traitors in history (Judas, Brutus, and Cassius.)

    What’s the connection between chaos and Satan? If Satan’s rebellion was indeed a chaotic event such as God’s quelling of the chaotic sea, there may be some sort of connection. Job did not grasp the concept very well, especially because he invoked Leviathan in the desire the day of his birth would be cursed, not being aware of the satanical element that this would entail. In Job’s own life, he sows chaos. Ironically, Job is wanting Leviathan to swallow up the day of his birth so he could avoid the suffering he has been dealt by Leviathan himself.

    One last comment: Satan is not literally a sea monster. We should not be looking for Leviathan’s bones in the museum of natural history.
    As we move on in Job’s speech, we may infer in chapter 3 that suicide is sinful. Job asserts if he was never born but died as a miscarriage, “I would have slept then, I would have been at rest” (Job 3:13). Why doesn’t Job just commit suicide if he wishes for death? I believe that he desired obedience to God no matter how much or little he was blessed. By not committing suicide, it appears that he considered suicide a sin and even still was blameless and obedient before God.

    The futility of wealth is commented on in Job’s speech. Much like Solomon observes in Ecclesiastes, life itself appears vain to Job because it ends in death. In verses 14 and 15 he speaks of the company he would have in death: “...kings and with counselors of the earth, who rebuilt ruins for themselves...princes who had gold, who were filling their houses with silver.” Their great houses are now long gone and inconsequential.

    How about Job’s wealth? Job a few verses later wonders why he was even given such blessings to begin with when he asks, “Why is light given to him who suffers and life to the bitter of soul” (Job 3:20)? This is highly speculative, but Job may be reflecting that his wealth and family may have been a punishment, because they can be pulled away like a rug from under him.

    Worldly attachments to people we love or our stuff do increase the opportunities we have to feel pain. This is a concept elaborated upon by Saint Augustine, who interpreted 1 Cor 3:15 (“If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire”) to mean that a Christian with good things has more to lose and when put through a trial than a Christian with less:

    In fact, wood and hay and stubble may be understood, without absurdity, to signify such an attachment to those worldly things—albeit legitimate in themselves—that one cannot suffer their loss without anguish in the soul. Now, when such anguish "burns," and Christ still holds his place as foundation in the heart—that is, if nothing is preferred to him and if the man whose anguish "burns" would still prefer to suffer loss of the things he greatly loves than to lose Christ—then one is saved, "by fire." (Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love, Chapter 28).

    In conclusion, Job in his speech apparently misunderstands how God uses His hedge. Just as God has made a hedge that the sea could not cross, and a hedge Satan could not cross, Job believes “God has hedged [me] in” (Job 3:23). Instead of understanding that God uses the hedge to protect him from Satan, he instead believes it is used to trap him in suffering.

    Job did not understand that suffering is part of the Christian life:

    Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions (Mark 10:29-30).

    Job understood the increase in children and farms, but not the persecution part. Because of this, he believes that it is possible his worst fear is realized: the God whom He loves is angry at him and does not count him as one of His children.

    So, let us understand God’s blessings for His people, even in the midst of suffering and bouts with Satan. God is the author of all things righteous. He exploits the devil and exposes us to suffering, because this is part and parcel with carrying our cross and following Him. We should have this confidence when suffering: if God did not withhold His Son from us, He will not withhold any good thing. So, be assured that if you are in Christ, He works your suffering for your own good and His glory.
     
  4. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

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    Lesson 4: The Initial Response of Job's Friends



    In the previous three lessons, we learned how we live in a God-centered universe that God permits suffering, because it leads to greater good and glorifies Him. Men, in their totally depraved hearts are often prevented from sinning by God’s grace, and Satan operates only when God gives His chain some slack by removing “hedges” that protect us. Now, as you can guess, Job’s friends don’t understand any of this. In fact, they sound a lot like how all non-Christians understand suffering.

    "What goes around comes around." Have you ever heard of this platitude? People call it karma, they call it the law of the universe, they can call it whatever they want. People want to believe that if you’re a real jerk, God or something out there is “gonna get ya.”

    Why do people believe this? The world is full of liars, cheaters, and flat-out sadists that are doing quite well for themselves. Why do people believe something so out of touch with reality? People want to believe it is true, because they have an innate sense of fairness that is violated on a daily basis. So, people make up a god or impersonal force that metes out justice the way they wish it was.

    Their made up sense of karma appeals to them because it is “fair,” so they often reject God because he’s not the god they want. To understand why people reject God when they think life is “unfair,” it is important to review Epicurus' argument against the existence of God. We’re in church. We’re not here to learn Greek philosophy. Thankfully, what Epicurus said is both really wrong, but really easy to understand. We need to understand it, because as we will see, Job’s friends anticipated Epicurus’ reasoning by more than 1,000 years.

    Epicurus’ said: "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"

    In short, if evil exists then God must either not be all that good because He did not stop it, not that powerful because He cannot stop it, or not that smart because He does not know when or how to stop it. How can God be good but there be evil?

    Job’s friends bought Epicurus’ argument. Their defense of God's justice appears to anticipate Epicurus' reasoning: God is omniscient/omnipotent/omnibenevolent, but there is evil in the world. God is not lacking in knowledge/power/goodness where He cannot stop it. Therefore, evil MUST be the just punishment for sin. So, if Job is experiencing evils in his life, he must be committing sins.

    Horatio Spafford, the modern Job. We already talked about how Horatio Spafford is like a modern-day Job. He not only lost a ton of property and his family, he was accused of wickedness. Why? Because his only son died of scarlet fever. Taken in conjunction with the loss of the rest of his children earlier and his property, his Presbyterian church was convinced he was not God’s elect, as they could not imagine an all-powerful God permitting such a holy man to experience such profound evils. Spafford was never vindicated. Him and his wife, perhaps weary of the world, packed their bags and moved to then-Palestine to wait for Jesus’ second coming. There, Spafford died of malaria before reaching the age of 60. So, God allowed J.P. Morgan, David Rockefeller, and Cornelius Vanderbilt to make fortunes to live long, prosperous lives when they essentially ripped people off for a living. Spafford died of disease and in relative poverty. Is God fair in this? Maybe some of us have our doubts.

    Job’s Friends were convinced that God would not allow such a thing to happen to a righteous man. As we can see, Job’s friends often have a correct premise, but an incorrect conclusion. They are right that God is just, but they are wrong in thinking that God therefore cannot allow bad things to happen to “good people.”

    The core arguments of Job’s friends. Job’s friends defend their view of God never allowing evil in three ways. 1. God punishes wickedness. 2. God is inscrutable. 3. Man is totally depraved and deserves nothing. All three of these things are totally true, but these truths are misapplied. God has been gracious to us in the Scripture to have this occur so that we may understand how to properly understand and not misapply the truth. This is something we can so easily do when left to our own wisdom like Job’s friends.

    In the following, I am going to sum up the arguments of Job’s friends, about 10 chapters worth, in thematic and sequential order:

    Accusations that Job’s committed wickedness.

    Eliphaz said, “According to what I have seen, those who plow iniquity
    And those who sow trouble harvest it” (Job 4:8).

    We know that the Bible says that “you reap what you sow.” So, Eliphaz is correct in this in a general sense. However, we do not always reap what we so right now. Rom 2:7-8 shows that we ultimately reap what we sow in the afterlife:

    To those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.

    Later on, a friend of Job’s named Bildad answers his own question:

    Does God pervert justice?
    Or does the Almighty pervert what is right?
    If your sons sinned against Him,
    Then He delivered them into the power of their transgression.
    If you would seek God
    And implore the compassion of the Almighty,
    If you are pure and upright,
    Surely now He would rouse Himself for you
    And restore your righteous estate (Job 8:3-6).

    As we can see, Bildad is being very insensitive. He implies that Job’s children were killed as recompense for sin. After shoving this into Job’s face, he says if Job only repents, God will accept him again. Bildad cannot understand how God will not pervert justice on one hand and yet account Job as blameless. Obviously, Bildad does not agree with God’s sense of justice and would in fact consider God unjust, because that is precisely what God really did.

    The last friend, Zophar beats around the bush a little bit and says, “If iniquity is in your hand, put it far away, and do not let wickedness dwell in your tents” (Job 11:14). The obvious implication is that Job committed iniquity and he turned a blind eye to the wickedness of his family members or servants (hence the reference to wickedness dwelling in his tents.)

    Job’s friends grow increasingly less tactful in their speech and simply start accusing Job of imagined wrongdoing. Eliphaz said, “For your guilt teaches your mouth and you choose the language of the crafty. Your own mouth condemns you, and not I; and your own lips testify against you“ (Job 15:5-6).

    In fact, Eliphaz’s final accusation against Job appears is even harsher. It also appears to reveal a subtle jealousy of Job’s wealth and righteousness, as he seems to accuse Job of doing the exact opposite things that Job really did:

    Is not your wickedness great,
    And your iniquities without end?
    For you have taken pledges of your brothers without cause,
    And stripped men naked.
    To the weary you have given no water to drink,
    And from the hungry you have withheld bread…
    You have sent widows away empty,
    And the strength of the orphans has been crushed.
    Therefore snares surround you,
    And sudden dread terrifies you (Job 22:5-7, 9-10).

    Job’s friends are not done! They throw even more you-know-what at the wall to see if it sticks by defending God in a way that contradicts their earlier defense.

    In fact, they argue that God’s ways are completely inscrutable. Obviously, this contradicts the “God punishes you because you’re evil” idea because if God is inscrutable, you really wouldn’t know why people are punished. When bad things happen to “good” people, sometimes the best response we give is that “God works in mysterious ways.” This is just a simple way of saying that, “‘For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD” (Is 55:8). However, Job’s friends seem not to be making a profound point, but rather an intellectual cop-out because they simply cannot rationalize Job’s situation. We must be careful not to do the same when speaking to someone who is suffering.

    Eliphaz says for example that, “They [men] die, yet without wisdom” (Job 4:21). So, does that mean we have no way to understand why there is evil in the world? He would have us think so.

    Zophar asks Job:

    Can you discover the depths of God?
    Can you discover the limits of the Almighty?
    They are high as the heavens, what can you do?
    Deeper than Sheol, what can you know (Job 11:7-8)?
     
  5. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

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    There is an element of truth, as apart from the Holy Spirit we cannot know God. However, He is not completely unknowable nor knowledge of Him unattainable. We discover God in the Scripture and He reveals Himself to us by His Holy Spirit. The Scripture says, “‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom 10:8-9).

    So, anything worth knowing can be known, it is in the Scripture and it is not too difficult to understand.

    Man’s total depravity means he can be punished at any point.

    Voddie Baucham once posed the question as a rhetorical response to the problem of evil: “Why shouldn’t God put us all in hell right now?” This is a sort of defense for God that Job’s friends invoke, but in reference to Job it does not hold up.

    Eliphaz tells Job that he not only speaks with wisdom, but a vision in the night gave him a prophecy. The angel told him a profound truth: “Can mankind be just before God?...against His angels He charges error” (Job 4:17, 18).

    Eliphaz interpreted the angelic message as follows:

    What is man, that he should be pure,
    Or he who is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?
    Behold, He puts no trust in His holy ones,
    And the heavens are not pure in His sight;
    How much less one who is detestable and corrupt,
    Man, who drinks iniquity like water (Job 15:14-16)!

    Do we agree with Eliphaz’s prophecy? Where does it come from? Let’s look again at prophecy the spirit told Eliphaz:

    Can mankind be just before God? Can a man be pure before his Maker (Job 4:17)?

    The vision starts with deceptive representation of the truth. “Can mankind be just before God?” The answer it anticipates is “no.” Of course, this is true and it is precisely because it is true we require an alien righteousness, that is Christ’s, to be just before God.

    However, this is not what the spirit encourages Eliphaz to think. Instead, Eliphaz interprets the statement to mean that God is right to crush man and punish him arbitrarily, for there is nothing good in him: “For affliction does not come from the dust, nor does trouble sprout from the ground, for man is born for trouble, as sparks fly upward” (5:6-7).

    The Snake in the garden. Doesn’t the rhetorical question sound a bit similar to the snake in the garden. “Did God really say?...Surely you will not die…” Satan asks a rhetorical question and once he gets the listener wrong footed, he encourages him to make the wrong conclusion by asserting a false statement. He is bitter that God even charges His angels with error! So, if he is charged with error and cannot escape judgment, surely he does not want you to know that you can escape your righteous conviction for your sin by faith in Christ!

    Some Calvinists like Eliphaz’s verses, but misapply them. You might have heard Calvinists quote these verses before to substantiate the doctrine of total depravity. Even Saint Paul quotes Job 5:13 in 1 Cor 3:19, “He takes the wise in His own craftiness.” Not everything Eliphaz says is wrong, but he goes too far. God puts trust in many of His angels, He does not charge all of them with error. He is in the heavens, He does whatever He pleases...it is not as if the heavens are unclean in His eyes, in the first day God created the heavens and the earth, and it was good.

    Satan is a deceiver and he presents us a warped take on total depravity. Indeed, man is impure, but a man born of a woman can be righteous. Obviously, Jesus was born of a woman, as are all of us that are righteous in Christ by faith. It is obvious that he does not want us looking to Christ!

    Being righteous in Christ disallows Job’s friend’s conclusions. When Eliphaz asks, “Is there any pleasure to the Almighty if you are righteous, or profit if you make your ways perfect” (Job 22:3) we know that he is wrong. God loves righteousness, “For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation.” (Ps 149:4).

    There is a reason Job’s friends retreat to the doctrine of total depravity. It is the hardest to disprove, because it logically makes sense: because man is depraved, God is always in the right to arbitrarily punish him. The last speech from one of Job’s friends is Bildad’s and it ends on this point. Let’s turn to chapter 25 and consider it carefully.

    Aquinas sums up Bildad’s argument quite nicely: “He wants to show in this that man cannot propose his own justice and innocence, however great it may be, as it is reckoned as nothing in comparison to God, when divine justice is in question.”

    It’s a solid point. In fact, if men have done nothing to merit their own salvation, then their eternal damnation and punishment is totally deserved because they have wronged an infinitely great God. And so, if man already deserves eternal damnation, why would it be unjust if God caused him suffering whenever He wanted to?

    Bildad begins his argument speaking of God’s inimitable power, implying that His station makes Him unquestionable: “Dominion and awe belong to Him...” (Job 25:2). Afterward, he explains why: “...who establishes peace in His heights. Is there any number to His troops? And upon whom does His light not rise” (Job 25:2-3)?

    God has dominion, because he controls the heavens and the Earth. He enforces His control with His holy angels. Much like the idiom “the sun never sets on the British Empire,” wherever God sheds His light, which is everywhere, He exercises authority. Therefore, dominion is not only His because of His complete and total sovereignty, but also He is awe-inspiring as His power cannot be matched.

    How does Bildad imagine His power? When Bildad speaks of a great tranquility in heaven, Matthew Henry’s says that, “The holy angels never quarrel with him, nor with one another, but entirely acquiesce in His will, and unanimously execute it without murmuring or disputing. Thus the will of God is done in heaven; and thus we pray that it may be done by us and others on earth.” However, other commentators like Joseph Caryl and Aquinas have pointed out that Bildad is speaking of God’s awesome authority. He establishes peace, which means He takes it by force. This is not a picture of peace as Henry imagines, but a picture of war.

    We may infer that this is an accurate view by looking at Satan’s fall in the Scripture the:

    You said in your heart,
    ‘I will ascend to heaven;
    above the stars of God
    I will set my throne on high;
    I will sit on the mount of assembly
    in the far reaches of the north;
    I will ascend above the heights of the clouds;
    I will make myself like the Most High.’
    But you are brought down to Sheol,
    to the far reaches of the pit (Is 14:13-15, ESV).
     
  6. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

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    Rev 9:1 appears to substantiate this: “Then the fifth angel sounded, and I saw a star [“Morning Star” aka “Lucifer,” Is 14:12] from heaven which had fallen to the earth; and the key of the bottomless pit was given to him.” Hence, the falling has already occurred and it will occur again when Satan is thrust into the lake of fire for eternity.

    When we pray the Lord’s Prayer we ask that “Your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.” This should remind us of what we are really praying for. After all, God’s will is done both on Earth and Heaven already for He “works all things after the counsel of His will” (Eph 1:11). However, we know that Satan is “the prince of this world” (John 12:30, John 14:31). A ruler has been given dominion, but Satan has not been given complete sovereignty. So, when we pray for the Father’s will to be done on Earth as it is in Heaven, we are asking for Him to protect us. After all, He has established perfect peace in heaven by casting Satan out.

    It should not surprise us that the final request in the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one,” is followed up with its rationale: “for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory.”So the Lord’s prayer ends just as it begins. God can deliver us because of who He is and His power. Satan does not have a lasting kingdom. He is ultimately toothless.

    Bildad appears to understand God’s great strength, but he wrongly concludes that because God is awesome man is by necessity meaningless to Him when he concludes, “How then can a man be just with God” (Job 25:3)? The idea is that God can simply punish wicked man arbitrarily. Bildad’s retribution philosophy puts God in a box that He does not fit into, because God does not take “pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather” desires their repentance (Ezek 33:11).

    Bildad then follows up the rhetorical question with a point that Eliphaz already made: “How can he be clean who is born of woman” (Job 25:3)? We already know the answer to this. Christians, like Job, can be clean because their sins are nailed to the cross and they are imputed Christ’s righteousness.

    Bildad then ends with one last rhetorical question meant to convey the unworthiness of man: “If even the moon has no brightness and the stars are not pure in His sight how much less man, that maggot, and the son of man,that worm” (Job 25:5-6)!

    The New Jerusalem won’t have lights...It is so easy to be drawn in by Bildad’s argument. We know that in the Book of Revelation, there will be no sun, moon, and probably stars because compared to the light emanating from God, they are complete darkness. They would obscure the truth in that same darkness (Rev 21:23-24). As David spoke of God in heaven: “For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light we see light” (Ps 36:9). However, this is not what Bildad is talking about. He is essentially reiterating Eliphaz’s argument: “The heavens are not clean in His sight” (Job 15:15).

    This is really at the core of what Bildad is saying: If even the greatest things are nothing to God, than to presume man means anything to God where He should prevent man’s suffering makes no sense. No one cries when a maggot or worm is crushed. Man is meaningless to God.

    This is a very strong and internally consistent argument. Epicurus’ whole problem of evil, where the existence of evil somehow would make God not omniscient, omnipotent, nor omnibenevolent, is exposed as idiocy by Bildad’s point.

    The only good reason God should be good enough, or powerful enough, or smart enough to stop evil according to Epicurus is that human suffering should presumably matter to God. However, if man is no more special than a worm, or evoluted from a pile of scum that originated 1.2 billion years ago, then man is nothing and what he confronts has no profound meaning in the universe.

    Bildad’s argument should silence atheists, but not Christians. We understand that the universe is Theocentric and not Anthropocentric. Yet, thanks to God’s revelation we know that man is made in the “image of God” (Gen 1:27). God the Son has both human and divine natures that exist in their fullness so that He is fully God and fully man. He existed before His incarnation not in bodily form, but now has a body “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom 8:3). Therefore, the universe does not revolve around man, but God does have plans and purposes for man. Man is the only creature that can partake in a divine union with God by being in Christ. He is certainly more than a worm.

    In summing up Job’s friends, we may conclude that they are accurate in saying that God punishes wickedness. 2. God is inscrutable. 3. Man is totally depraved and deserves nothing. However, they are wrong in concluding that righteous men like Job always suffer as a result of wickedness, that God cannot be understood at all, and that man’s depravity makes God into some sort of arbitrary judge that metes out justice at a whim. What remains to be seen is how Job, in his suffering, responds to these arguments from his friends.
     
  7. gordRedeemed

    gordRedeemed Well-Known Member

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    Preaching right from the scriptures I see. How novel. ;)
     
  8. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

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    Thanks gord :)
     
  9. gordRedeemed

    gordRedeemed Well-Known Member

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    You have any theology schooling?
     
  10. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

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    I keep getting asked that over the years, which makes me convinced that I am stuck in a purgatory between the uneducated and the educated on these matters. I read a lot and God has been gracious in preventing me from going too far off the rails. I am very careful to read up on historical interpretations, beginning with the ancient ones (Early Church Fathers.)
     
  11. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

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    I work for the DMV by the way :)
     
  12. gordRedeemed

    gordRedeemed Well-Known Member

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    It's a shame that so much schooling is required for one to become accredited/ordained by many denominations. Not that i am against education. Just seems education should not be the only aspect considered when one would like to be a pastor.

    Not saying you want to become a pastor, maybe you do. Just a general observation.
     
  13. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

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    I'd agree, though I do not want to be a pastor as I am too young and inexperienced with life. I think what AMR is doing is a step in the right direction, the teching of clergy needs to get less professional not more so. The system of education we have today encourages heresy. You can only get your Masters and Doctorate in any field contingent upon coming up with a new thesis and proving it. When it comes to theology we think highly of Thomas C. Oden when he said that he hopes his tombstone says, “He made no new contribution to theology.”

    Why is that? Anything new, that hasn't been discovered yet, is likely heresy. The Holy Spirit has not withdrawn from His church understanding for 2,000 years until some guy getting a doctorate at a seminary just "discovered" what the truth was all along.

    We need to move back to local congregations picking their elders based upon the criteria found in the Pastoral Epistles and trusting the current elders to teach the next generation properly. It is offensive to my sensibilities to take some 30 year old who is a total stranger and make him suddenly everyone's spiritual elder, simply because he has a piece of paper that says, "I am upper middle class and smart enough to be an elder!"
     
  14. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

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    Lesson 5: Job’s Response to His Friends



    There is a sense that Job’s friends are correct. No man can stand before God undeserving of suffering if we already concede that all men merit their own damnation. But how does this apply to Job who is not lacking in righteousness, but is clothed in Christ’s righteousness?

    In the previous lessons, we covered how Job was a blameless man who was accused of wrongdoing from his friends, all of which wanted to give an explanation as to why God is just in the face of Job’s suffering. They argued that men suffer for punishment for sin, that man is totally depraved and has it coming to him at any moment, and ultimately God’s ways are inscrutable.

    Just as Job’s friends gave the same explanations, Job repeats the same points throughout his dialogues: He laments of his suffering, questions his friends’ motives, defends his faithfulness, and overtly questions God’s justice. It is the latter in which he will later repent of.

    Laments of his suffering.

    Job is initially apologetic: “my words have been rash…for the arrows of the Almighty are within me” (Job 6:3-4).

    Then he goes ahead and says rash things like the following:

    “…My adversary glares at me… 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;

    He runs at me like a warrior” (Job 16:9, 13-14).

    But these excesses are understandable due to the duration of the suffering. Job says, “So am I allotted months of vanity, and nights of trouble are appointed me” (Job 7:3). It is likely that Job is giving an indication of the time which elapsed between the time in which Satan destroyed his family and property to the present.

    One of Job’s laments mirrors Solomon’s in Ecclesiastes. Job says, “Is not man forced to labor on earth and are not his days like the days of a hired man?…When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I arise?’ But the night continues, And I am continually tossing until dawn” (Job 7:1, 4). Solomon observes, “It is a grievous task which God has given to the sons of men to be afflicted with” (Ecc 1:13). He again observes, “Because all his days his task is painful and grievous; even at night his mind does not rest. This too is vanity” (Ecc 2:23). In the former, Solomon is reflecting on life itself while in the latter he speaks specifically of work.

    Job later makes an entirely different complaint and in Job 7:14-15 cryptically states, “You frighten me with dreams and terrify me by visions so that my soul would choose suffocation, death rather than my pains.” What are these frightening visions that Job prefers death? Being that God commanded Satan to touch everything in his life and we already know Satan came to Eliphaz in a vision, we may rightfully interpret these as something Satanic. Satan is whispering lies to Job in nightmares, voices or delusions in his mind, or something of the sort. Perhaps, he is just trying to terrify him.

    Accuses Friends of Falsely Defending God’s Justice.

    Job asserts, “My brothers have acted deceitfully like a wadi, Like the torrents of wadis which vanish” (Job 6:15). He disagrees with their arguments because undergirding them is the idea that calamity is “prepared for those whose feet slip” (Job 12:5). Their arguments are prepared for the wrong guy!

    What will a just God do in response to his friends’ deceit? Job says, “He will surely reprove you if you secretly show partiality. Will not His majesty terrify you and the dread of Him fall on you” (Job 13:10-11)?

    Lastly, Job also makes the accusation that God “kept their heart from understanding” (Job 17:4).

    How does God withhold from their hearts understanding so that they speak falsehood, without actually putting falsehood on their lips? Micaiah the prophet gives us a picture of how it works. Before King Ahab of the Northern Kingdom went to battle, he asked prophets to tell him how he would fare. They all said he would fare well, other than Micaiah that is.

    Micaiah said, “Therefore, hear the word of the Lord. I saw the Lord sitting on His throne, and all the host of heaven standing by Him on His right and on His left. The Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab to go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said this while another said that. Then a spirit [the Satan] came forward and stood before the Lord and said, ‘I will entice him.’ The Lord said to him, ‘How?’ And he said, ‘I will go out and be a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ Then He said, ‘You are to entice him and also prevail. Go and do so.’ Now therefore, behold, the Lord has put a deceiving spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; and the Lord has proclaimed disaster against you” (1 Kings 22:19-23).

    And so God permits Satan to deceive, but pay attention to the details here! The one being deceived, Ahab, wants to believe the lie! All of this occurs in accordance with God’s will as judgment against those who listen to Satan’s lies.

    “Oh, you’re just taking this out of context!,” says Mr. Pelagian. “Nowhere else in the Bible has that!”

    Nope! The same course of events, including the lying spirit being sent by God, also occurs in 2 Kings 19:6-7. There, Isaiah prophesies that because “the king of Assyria have blasphemed Me…I will put a spirit in him so that he will hear a rumor and return to his own land. And I will make him fall by the sword in his own land.” So, the King of Assyria’s itching ears (2 Tim 4:3)anticipated such a rumor because like a shifty eyed mob boss was legitimately afraid that people were always trying to off him. God uses this against him–just like a liar always thinks he is being lied to, a schemer always thinks someone is contriving some sort of scheme against him! It was a fitting punishment for his sin.

    “Oh, all of that is only in the Old Testament,” says Mr. Pelagian.

    Nope! Those who deny Christ will also suffer such judgement. Paul warns, “God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness” (2 Thes 2:11-12).

    Is God unfair? No, because those who were sent the “deluding influence so that they will believe what is false” already “did not believe the truth.” Being that there are “none who seek God” (Rom 3:11), apart from His grace every one of us believes a lie, lives in wickedness, and deserves to tempted by Satan and his demons to believe what we were already inclined to believe.

    Thanks be to God, He has opened our eyes so that we can worship His Son.

    So, why doesn’t God than have mercy on all, for all equally do not know the truth apart from grace? Augustine may have the answer:

    For by giving to some what they do not deserve, He has certainly willed that His grace should be gratuitous, and thus genuine grace; by not giving to all, He has shown what all deserve. Good in His goodness to some, righteous in the punishment of others; both good in respect of all, because it is good when that which is due is rendered, and righteous in respect of all, since that which is not due is given without wrong to any one (Chapter 28, On Grace and Free Will).
     
  15. abacabb3

    abacabb3 Newbie

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    Defense of his reputation as “blameless.”

    Job maintains his integrity that he has “not denied the words of the Holy One” (Job 6:10). These words, as other similar affirmative statements of Job’s faith in God, are important in the book. Job, despite all of his strong language wishing he was dead and questioning God’s justice does not deny His maker nor curse Him.

    Job makes further claims of his own righteousness throughout his responses: “[T]here is no violence in my hands and my prayer is pure” (Job 16:17).

    “My foot has held fast to His path;

    I have kept His way and not turned aside.

    “I have not departed from the command of His lips;

    I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:11-12).

    The most important statement of Job’s righteousness is as follows:

    “I put on righteousness, and it clothed me;

    My justice was like a robe and a turban” (Job 29:14).

    The righteousness was not his own, but rather belonging to God and given to him. The clearest parallel in the Scripture is when the prophet Zechariah recounts a story of Satan accusing the High Priest Joshua of his sin and God’s redeeming of this man:

    Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel. He spoke and said to those who were standing before him, saying, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” Again he said to him, “See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.” Then I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments, while the angel of the Lord was standing by (Zech 3:3-5).

    As we can see, the clothes come from God. There is both a garment/robe and a turban. The changing of clothing reflects the taking away of iniquity and the putting on of righteousness.

    How do I get my hands on these white robes and turbans that make me righteous? Paul tells us in Phil 3:9–

    It’s not by “having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith!”

    This is precisely how Job was righteous, it was on the basis of faith!

    However, he speaks of the righteousness clothing him in the past tense. Perhaps, he feels that the suffering is evidence that God has taken away his alien righteousness. Let’s put that on hold for a bit though.

    Thus far there has been nothing wrong with what Job said, but that changes when he

    Questions God’s Justice.

    How should we understand Job’s impugning of God’s justice? Silas Durand writes, “Job has been murmuring under the mighty hand of God, thus contending with him, and reproving him for laying his hand so heavily upon one so feeble and insignificant, exhibiting the rebellious disposition of our poor fallen nature” (The Trial of Job, XIX).

    The following are Job’s accusations:

    –God is overly scrupulous in punishing man for sin: “What is man that you magnify him and that You are concerned about him, that You examine him every morning and try him every moment” (Job 7:17, 18)?

    He also says: “Who can make the clean out of the unclean? No one! Since his days are determined, The number of his months is with You; And his limits You have set so that he cannot pass. Turn Your gaze from him that he may rest, Until he fulfills his day like a hired man” (Job 14:3-6).

    Matthew Henry makes the connection between Job finding God to be overly scrupulous and the seeming “unfairness” of original sin. He writes concerning Job 14:4, “If man be born of a woman that is a sinner, how can it be otherwise than that he should be a sinner?”

    Obviously, the idea is that God is just a bully picking a fight against man who cannot do anything about his innate sinfulness.

    In this, Job is of course wrong. God is not a bully! God did not gaze down upon Job hatefully, but rather approvingly when speaking to Satan. Escaping God’s notice never affords any sort of benefit. We have everything to gain from God taking interest in our lives and intervening in the way He knows is best, even if it really does not feel like it. We store up wrath upon our own heads. He’s our only salvation from ourselves.

    –God is acting inconsistently with the Gospel.

    Job in a few places speaks of a time where God’s grace was apparent: “You have granted me life and lovingkindness; And Your care has preserved my spirit” (Job 10:12). “His lamp shone over my head, And by His light I walked through darkness” (Job 29:3).

    It is my assertion that Job understood this to mean that God had forgiven his sins and he was viewed as righteous. This is why Job says, “Have I sinned? What have I done to You…? Why then do You not pardon my transgression…” (Job 7:20-21)? One would not expect forgiveness for a transgression if forgiveness was not consistent with the nature of the One in whom forgiveness is desired from.

    Job views the idea that he has not been forgiven as a betrayal: “Yet these things You have concealed in Your heart; I know that this is within You: If I sin, then You would take note of me, And would not acquit me of my guilt” (Job 10:13-14).

    Job’s disappointment is understandable. God is supposedly in the guilt acquitting business! This isn’t right. It makes no sense that God would dredge up past sins, when “as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us” (Psalm 103:12).

    So, Job feels betrayed because he feels that he is being punished for past sins, despite the fact that Christ is supposed to pay his punishment on the cross.

    –God’s justice is a tyranny upheld by overwhelming power. This means, Job thinks that God is clearly in the wrong for making him suffer, but because God is stronger than him God’s might makes right. He can have his way by force.

    Job speaks of this idea in a few places:

    …how can a man be in the right before God?

    If one wished to dispute with Him,

    He could not answer Him once in a thousand times.

    Wise in heart and mighty in strength,

    Who has defied Him without harm?

    It is God who removes the mountains, they know not how,

    When He overturns them in His anger (Job 9:1-5).

    There are obvious negative connotations, particularly in reference to what we may infer is God’s creative power in reference to removing mountains. Job complains elsewhere, “Who alone stretches out the heavens and tramples down the waves of the sea…God will not turn back His anger; beneath Him crouch the helpers of Rahab” (Job 9:8,13).

    Who is Rahab, do we remember? Who do we think his helpers are? (According to Gregory the Great, “[W]e may also understand the Angelical powers.”) When did God trample them down and stretch out the heavens?

    Job does not know it, but he is feeling sorry for the poor old rebellious angels that God clobbered eons ago.

    Why? Job is fearful of how powerful God is. He opines, “Were He to snatch away, who could restrain Him? Who could say to Him, ‘What are You doing’” (Job 9:12)? Further he says, “If it is a matter of power, behold, He is the strong one! And if it is a matter of justice, who can summon Him” (Job 9:19)?

    Apparent in Job’s response is that he believes God to be unjust, even while he begrudgingly exalts God’s inimitability. “How then can I answer Him and choose my words before Him? For though I were right, I could not answer; I would have to implore the mercy of my judge” (Job 9:14-15). So, Job feels God is the just judge because there is no one higher to appeal to.

    Is this why God is just?

    No! It is because because He is actually right that He is just.

    But Job is doubting this! He is essentially accusing God of being all-knowing but not all-good! It is as if Job now views God’s justice as arbitrary and inconsistent with His nature:

    But He is unique and who can turn Him?

    And what His soul desires, that He does.

    For He performs what is appointed for me,

    And many such decrees are with Him.

    Therefore, I would be dismayed at His presence;

    When I consider, I am terrified of Him (Job 23:13-15).

    –God upholds the wicked and crushes the righteous.

    The tents of the destroyers prosper,

    And those who provoke God are secure,

    Whom God brings into their power (Job 12:6).

    He destroys the guiltless and the wicked. If the scourge kills suddenly, He mocks the despair of the innocent. The earth is given into the hand of the wicked; He covers the faces of its judges. If it is not He, then who is it (Job 9:22-24)?

    Is it right for You indeed to oppress,

    To reject the labor of Your hands,

    And to look favorably on the schemes of the wicked (Job 10:3)?

    -God is unjust.

    “For He bruises me with a tempest and multiplies my wounds without cause” (Job 9:17).
     
  16. abacabb3

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    To some degree, Job is right. God Himself told Satan that He ruined Job without cause. So, both are correct that there was not a specific sin worthy of punishment, but Job is wrong in saying that God has no good reason to do what He is doing.

    “Though I am guiltless, He will declare me guilty” (Job 9:20).

    The plain implication of the preceding is that Job knows better than God and that God is an unjust judge.

    -God creates disorder

    With Him are wisdom and might;

    To Him belong counsel and understanding.

    “Behold, He tears down, and it cannot be rebuilt;

    He imprisons a man, and there can be no release.

    “Behold, He restrains the waters, and they dry up;

    And He sends them out, and they inundate the earth.

    “With Him are strength and sound wisdom,

    The misled and the misleader belong to Him.

    “He makes counselors walk barefoot

    And makes fools of judges

    “He makes the nations great, then destroys them;

    He enlarges the nations, then leads them away.

    “He deprives of intelligence the chiefs of the earth’s people

    And makes them wander in a pathless waste. (Job 12:13-17, 23 and 24)

    As we can see, the accusation is that God malevolently affects the earth’s creative and social order.

    God “deprives the trusted ones of speech and takes away the discernment of the elders” (Job 12:20) which ultimately results in God withholding the truth from men and thrusting them into existential crises: “He deprives of intelligence the chiefs of the earth’s people And makes them wander in a pathless waste. They grope in darkness with no light, And He makes them stagger like a drunken man” (Job 12:24, 25).

    In our society, we don’t respect authority and so we won’t view the preceding to be as big of a deal as Job, the respected judge, would have. However, to Job it was as if God was overturning the whole social order.

    Why connect God’s overturning of the creative and social order in the same breath? What is the connection between the two?

    It is as if Job is saying that the way God made the world is wrong. The world is more than just stuff. It has people, if God does not deal “rightly” with people then there is something profoundly wrong not just with people, but with everything–it’s all connected.

    The Importance of Social Order.

    The 30th chapter talks about this in detail:

    “But now those younger than I mock me,

    Whose fathers I disdained to put with the dogs of my flock.

    “Indeed, what good was the strength of their hands to me?

    Vigor had perished from them.

    “From want and famine they are gaunt

    Who gnaw the dry ground by night in waste and desolation,

    Who pluck mallow by the bushes,

    And whose food is the root of the broom shrub.

    “They are driven from the community;

    They shout against them as against a thief,

    So that they dwell in dreadful valleys,

    In holes of the earth and of the rocks.

    “Among the bushes they cry out;

    Under the nettles they are gathered together.

    “Fools, even those without a name,

    They were scourged from the land.

    “And now I have become their taunt,

    I have even become a byword to them.

    “They abhor me and stand aloof from me,

    And they do not refrain from spitting at my face.

    “Because He has loosed His bowstring and afflicted me,

    They have cast off the bridle before me.

    “On the right hand their brood arises;

    They thrust aside my feet and build up against me their ways of destruction.

    “They break up my path,

    They profit from my destruction;

    No one restrains them.

    “As through a wide breach they come,

    Amid the tempest they roll on.

    “Terrors are turned against me;

    They pursue my honor as the wind,

    And my prosperity has passed away like a cloud (Job 30:1-15).

    The first example is that instead of being seen with respect as he was before, even children mock him (Job 30:1). In the modern day, where Bart Simpson calls his father a dope and we don’t bat an eyelash, this may not be such a big deal. However, for most of the world outside the West, and most of history, treating the elderly with such disrespect is unthinkable.

    In some cultures, such as Cambodia, the way a younger person greets an older person is done in a fashion that shows respect due to their age. They do this by raising their hands to their face and bowing, using special age-specific terms to address the elder, while the elder returns the greeting by notably bowing back with her or his hand positioned chest-level. The fact the young must raise their hands higher shows deference to the elderly. Now, imagine doing that to each person in accordance with their age! This is like second nature to most people throughout history. So, what Job is observing is no minor annoyance. It is as if the whole social order has been overturned!
     
  17. abacabb3

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    Lesson 6: A God of Disorder? – Book of Job



    Now we are really starting to dig into the Book of Job. We have learned how God is good and He regulates suffering and wickedness because He knows that it is better to bring good out of evil than not to permit the temporary existence of evil whatsoever. This is what Augustine said, and this is what we see working its way out in heaven in the first few chapters. But, Job’s friends do not know this and neither does Job. We will find out later how God takes issue with this and corrects both Job and his friends on this point.

    Why dig into the book now? I just gave you the whole point! You already know the conclusion! I am so grateful for the opportunity here to really relish what the book says, dig into the details, and truly learn it inside and out. Joseph Caryl took 30 years and more than 10,000 pages, about 10 times larger than our Bibles to explain this wonderful book. I have maybe a couple more months to try to give you just some of the goods those 10,000 pages have!

    So, bear with me because upon reflection and prayer, I feel that it is extremely important to unpack what we were reviewing in the end of last week.

    My wife pointed out a very good point to me last week, and it was something I was concerned about too and I was not quite sure how to phrase it, but I’ll give a go at it now. We are nearing the end point of our discussion of Job chapters 3 to 31. Teaching these chapters in a chronological manner is challenging, because Job and his friends do not make their points one after another like Paul does in the Book of Romans. Rather, they make the same kinds of points in varying order.

    For this reason, I have in varying order gave us categories to understand the responses of Job and his friends gave considering suffering.

    For example, Job’s friends said that Job suffered as a punishment for sin, but what else did they also say? Yes, that Job is totally depraved and can be punished at any moment, and God is inscrutable.

    In the same way, Job’s responses vary throughout the chapters, but also tend to fall into a select few categories. These include laments of his suffering, defenses of his own righteousness, accusations that his friends are wrong, and accusations against God’s justice.

    The accusations against God’s justice also tend to fall into several categories and are repeated in an uncertain order. These include that God is overly scrupulous, acting inconsistently with the Gospel, gets His way by force, and creates disorder.

    I am going to make the case to you today that a significant part of Job’s responses, at the very least 45 verses which is equivalent to two chapters of the book, relates to the accusation that God is a God of disorder, both creative and social.
     
  18. abacabb3

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    This is particularly true in chapters 9 and 12. Chapters 17, 18, 20, 21, 27, and 30 all speak of the issue of social disorder, particularly God blessing the wicked and allowing the righteous to suffer. We cannot ignore this issue.Too much of the book covers it.

    Let me lay out for you what I mean by creative and social disorder. First, what is creative disorder? Creative disorder means that God made the physical world, its weather and geology, in such a sense that it could have been done better. For example, couldn’t God have made the world where there are no hurricanes, earthquakes, droughts, and meteor showers?

    Social disorder is a simpler concept. Social disorder is when society is not ordered the way it ought to be, whether it be by caste, honor, equality, equity, or whatever measures and concepts we conflate with order.Corrupt politicians, crooked preachers, ISIS, crimes, and race riots are all examples of things that create social disorder. You know, like the final scene in Police Academy.

    When we suffer and say in layman’s terms, “Something is not right in the world,” what are we really saying? What’s not right? We are really saying, “The world could have been made better, it is not ordered right!”



    And, this is what Job is saying in chapters 9 and 12 when he accuses God of creating disorder. Is there any truth to this accusation? No. The Scripture says, “[F]or God is not a God of confusion (Greek: disorder) but of peace” (1 Cor 14:33).

    Now, who made the winds who killed Job’s children and set loose the Sabeans and what not to kill his servants and steal his property? Not God, Satan! Satan sows disorder, not God. God allows Satan to sow disorder to an extent, just like God lets the tides of the ocean and waves rise and toss to an extent. But then he marks a line where they cannot cross and says, “No farther!” In the same way, God tells evil, just like Satan in the first two chapters, “No farther!”

    Job’s accusation is very serious, as it accuses God of doing what Satan actually does! Let’s unpack Job’s accusations:

    First, Job 9:1-16:

    Then Job answered,

    2 “In truth I know that this is so;

    But how can a man be in the right before God?

    3 “If one wished to dispute with Him,

    He could not answer Him once in a thousand times.

    4 “Wise in heart and mighty in strength,

    Who has defied Him without harm?

    5 “It is God who removes the mountains, they know not how,

    When He overturns them in His anger;

    6 Who shakes the earth out of its place,

    And its pillars tremble; (What does this sound like? This sounds like volcanoes or Earthquakes. Were there volcanoes and Earthquakes killing animals and threatening Adam and Eve in the garden? No! They are a result of sin. Satan is behind the destructive elements of weather.)

    7 Who commands the sun not to shine,

    And sets a seal upon the stars;

    8 Who alone stretches out the heavens

    And tramples down the waves of the sea;

    9 Who makes the Bear, Orion and the Pleiades,

    And the chambers of the south;

    10 Who does great things, unfathomable,

    And wondrous works without number. (These are all references to God’s power in creation. God’s power scares Job.)

    11 “Were He to pass by me, I would not see Him;

    Were He to move past me, I would not perceive Him.

    12 “Were He to snatch away, who could restrain Him?

    Who could say to Him, ‘What are You doing?’

    13 “God will not turn back His anger;

    Beneath Him crouch the helpers of Rahab.

    14 “How then can I answer Him,

    And choose my words before Him?

    15 “For though I were right, I could not answer;

    I would have to implore the mercy of my judge.

    16 “If I called and He answered me,

    I could not believe that He was listening to my voice (Job 9:1-16).



    We need to remember what Job said in Job 9:20 as a result of everything he just said:“For though I were right, I could not answer.” He is calling God wrong!



    What is Job’s premise for saying this? God’s creative power is discussed in a way that invokes fear and does not reflect positively upon God. It is as if Job is saying he could have done it better, without the Earthquakes (“pillars tremble”), cloudy days (“covers the sun”), and what not.



    Let’s go to chapter 12:6-25, where Job gives examples of God creating disorder in both the social and physical realms:

    “The tents of the destroyers prosper,

    And those who provoke God are secure,

    Whom God brings into their power. (God brings into power those who create social disorder)

    7 “But now ask the beasts, and let them teach you;

    And the birds of the heavens, and let them tell you.

    8 “Or speak to the earth, and let it teach you;

    And let the fish of the sea declare to you.

    9 “Who among all these does not know

    That the hand of the Lord has done this, (Job is saying ALL OF CREATION testifies that God uses His power to sow disorder.)

    10 In whose hand is the life of every living thing,

    And the breath of all mankind?

    11 “Does not the ear test words,

    As the palate tastes its food?

    12 “Wisdom is with aged men,

    With long life is understanding.

    13 “With Him are wisdom and might;

    To Him belong counsel and understanding. (Let’s see what God uses His counsel and understanding for according to Job.)

    14 “Behold, He tears down, and it cannot be rebuilt; (Likely a reference to Earthquakes–creative disorder)

    He imprisons a man, and there can be no release. (He puts men in jail–social disorder)

    15 “Behold, He restrains the waters, and they dry up; (He creates droughts–creative disorder)

    And He sends them out, and they inundate the earth. (He creates floods–creative disorder)

    16 “With Him are strength and sound wisdom,

    The misled and the misleader belong to Him. (He creates confusion among men–social disorder)

    17 “He makes counselors walk barefoot

    And makes fools of judges. (He creates injustice–social disorder)

    18 “He loosens the bond of kings

    And binds their loins with a girdle. (He creates political instability, think of tyrants–social disorder)

    19 “He makes priests walk barefoot

    And overthrows the secure ones. (He creates religious confusion, think of false preachers–social disorder)

    20 “He deprives the trusted ones of speech

    And takes away the discernment of the elders. (He creates intellectual confusion, think of the universities–social disorder)

    21 “He pours contempt on nobles

    And loosens the belt of the strong. (He creates instability among castes and social classes–social disorder)

    22 “He reveals mysteries from the darkness

    And brings the deep darkness into light.

    23 “He makes the nations great, then destroys them;

    He enlarges the nations, then leads them away. (Again, political confusion–social disorder)

    24 “He deprives of intelligence the chiefs of the earth’s people

    And makes them wander in a pathless waste. (Again, intellectual confusion–social disorder)

    25 “They grope in darkness with no light,

    And He makes them stagger like a drunken man (Job 12:6-25).

    Thomas Aquinas writes in his interpretation of the preceding, “For God sometimes darkens the mind of those men by taking away his grace so that they cannot find the truth, and, consequently cannot speak it, as Romans says, “Saying that they were wise, they have become foolish.” (1:22)”



    Now let me ask everyone here, is Aquinas right about this? Yes. Is Job saying that the things in chapter 12 are a just punishment for sin? No!



    Job is saying that God messes up both nature and people. If God messes up both of those things, then He in effect is messing up the whole of creation, which makes him a bad God. But, what’s the one other part of the world that Job is missing? The spiritual part! What happens behind the scenes to makes these different things happen in nature and society? What we saw in Job 1 and 2! But Job does not know that.



    Job is most definitely, without reservation, not concurring with 1 Cor 14:33! He gets a pass because it was not written for another 1500 years. But we cannot ignore Job’s accusation, God creates disorder, and so His justice is arbitrary and should invoke fear.



    We can see the idea that God creates social disorder elsewhere in the book.



    Last week, we began unpacking what Job said in 30:15. If we can understand this verse, it will help us see how profoundly important the social order was to Job. This helps us appreciate how big a deal his fall from grace was, and why he would be so bitter at God for allowing it to happen.



    An interesting comment Job makes about these men is that, “They pursue my honor as the wind” (Job 30:15). In modern societies that do not follow practices such as “honor killings,” the term honor does not quite carry the importance or implications that it would in Job’s time.

    Space does not permit an extremely detailed discussion here, but “honor” was to the ancients a bank account of respect. Think of it how maybeduring the Great Depression, everyone was poor so no one had any financial means in which to be respected more than the next. So, a man having “his word” meant something. He might not have any money, but that man had “his word!”
     
  19. abacabb3

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    Likewise, in older times, the “family name” meant something. For example, the idea of divorce was very difficult for many to swallow, but not because of religious reasons. Rather, people were afraid of ruining, as you may guess, “the family name.” The “family name” was important for people who wanted to marry into “good families.” A “good family” was not always rich, but marrying into such a family was sought after because they were seen as a cohesive body of respectable people. Having the reputation for being good was in many ways more important than money.

    These illustrations help us understand what honor is like, but in reality honor itself is a little more complicated than this. Individuals had honor such as their “word,” but they also had honor as a family unit (i.e. “the family name.”) The way this plays out in an honor killing would often work like this: a man sleeps with an unwed daughter of another family. The man not only gratifies himself, but by shaming the woman accrues personal honor at her expense. She is not supposed to be sleeping with anyone so by not doing her socially expected duty, she loses her honor and it is given to the man who slept with her. The family, due to their family’s shame, likewise loses their overall honor.

    When one’s honor is slighted, outsiders perceive you as weak and prime for shaming, so that they can accrue honor at your expense. It essentially becomes a free-for-all at the expense of the family that just lost their honor.

    How does one protect himself from being abused in a vicious cycle? In this situation, a male representative of the shamed family often will kill the man who slept with his sister. This restores to his family some degree of honor, while accruing personal honor to the brother for fulfilling his fraternal duty. In some situations, the woman is also killed because her continued existence is seen as a slight on the family’s honor. In this way the family preserve their good name! This still exists in Israel amongst the Arabs today. The killing part is important, because by ridding their family of shame they regain their “street cred” which in effect is a protective measure.

    Now all of this sounds crazy, but understanding it helps open up meaning in many parts of the Bible. In the Old Testament there are designated “cities of refuge” (Num 35:11-24). The dynamic at work with the vengeance killing has to do with restoring honor, because we already know that the cities of refuge were for involuntary manslaughter. As we said before, among pagan cultures, to let someone just kill your family member (or sleep with them, or defraud them, or wrong them in anyway) dealt a blow to one’s honor, leading to one being open to continued abuse.God in His mercy provided a way for His people to have their lives preserved and mitigate the role that “honor” would have played in perpetuating bloodshed.

    So, when the lowlives pursue Job’s “honor as the wind,” they are targeting Job in his moment of weakness. It is to be expected in this honor-obsessed culture. But, because Job is a blameless man, it is a grave injustice that he holds God responsible for because “He has loosed His bowstring” (Job 30:11).

    Let’s now sum up the rest of what Job and his friends say about social order. We are going to blow through this so sit tight!
     
  20. abacabb3

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    In Job 17, Job makes the comment, “But He has made me a byword of the people, and I am one at whom men spit” (Job 17:6). In chapter 19 he speaks of how his family abandoned him, his wife hates his breath, and children criticize him. We know from Job 30, what Job means by this that he is a man worthy of immense respect who has been humiliated by God.



    Bildad responds in Job 18:5-7, 17-19:



    Indeed, the light of the wicked goes out,

    And the flame of his fire gives no light.

    The light in his tent is darkened,

    And his lamp goes out above him.

    His vigorous stride is shortened,

    And his own scheme brings him down…

    Memory of him perishes from the earth,

    And he has no name abroad.

    He is driven from light into darkness,

    And chased from the inhabited world.

    He has no offspring or posterity among his people,

    Nor any survivor where he sojourned.



    Zophar responds:



    That the triumphing of the wicked is short,

    And the joy of the godless momentary?



    He returns what he has attained

    And cannot swallow it;

    As to the riches of his trading,

    He cannot even enjoy them.

    For he has oppressed and forsaken the poor;

    He has seized a house which he has not built.

    Because he knew no quiet within him,

    He does not retain anything he desires.

    The heavens will reveal his iniquity,

    And the earth will rise up against him.

    The increase of his house will depart;

    His possessions will flow away in the day of His anger.

    This is the wicked man’s portion from God,

    Even the heritage decreed to him by God.”

    (Job 20:5, 18-20, 27-29)



    Translation: What goes around comes around, they’ll never enjoy their ill-gotten gains and won’t even have kids. God simply CANNOT allow it.



    Job responds:



    Why do the wicked still live,

    Continue on, also become very powerful?

    Their descendants are established with them in their sight,

    And their offspring before their eyes,

    Their houses are safe from fear,

    And the rod of God is not on them (Job 21:7-9)



    Job in both chapters 21, 24 and in 27, where he mocks Zophar’s intended response, makes the argument that God should recompense men while they are alive–not the afterlife, and not their children.



    They spend their days in prosperity,

    And suddenly they go down to Sheol.

    They say to God, ‘Depart from us!

    We do not even desire the knowledge of Your ways.

    ‘Who is the Almighty, that we should serve Him,

    And what would we gain if we entreat Him?’

    Behold, their prosperity is not in their hand;

    The counsel of the wicked is far from me. (Job affirms the judgement)

    You say, ‘God stores away a man’s iniquity for his sons.’

    Let God repay him so that he may know it.

    Let his own eyes see his decay,

    And let him drink of the wrath of the Almighty (Punish the wicked in this life, not the next)

    “Behold, I know your thoughts,

    And the plans by which you would wrong me.

    “For you say, ‘Where is the house of the nobleman,

    And where is the tent, the dwelling places of the wicked?’

    “Have you not asked wayfaring men,

    And do you not recognize their [s]witness? (This disproves Zophar, everyone knows much of the wicked live sweet lives)

    “For the wicked is reserved for the day of calamity;

    They will be led forth at the day of fury.

    “Who will [t]confront him with his actions,

    And who will repay him for what he has done?

    “While he is carried to the grave,

    Men will keep watch over his tomb.

    “The clods of the valley will [u]gently cover him;

    Moreover, all men will [v]follow after him,

    While countless ones go before him. (God, by not striking these men down when they are living, encourages continued wickedness)

    (Job 21:13-16, 19-20, 27-34)



    Why are [a]times not stored up by the Almighty,

    And why do those who know Him not see His days?

    2 “[b]Some remove the landmarks;

    They seize and [c]devour flocks.

    3 “They drive away the donkeys of the orphans;

    They take the widow’s ox for a pledge.

    4 “They push the needy aside from the road;

    The poor of the land are made to hide themselves altogether.

    5 “Behold, as wild donkeys in the wilderness

    They go forth seeking food in their activity,

    As [d]bread for their children in the desert.

    6 “They harvest their fodder in the field

    And glean the vineyard of the wicked.

    7 “They spend the night naked, without clothing,

    And have no covering against the cold.

    8 “They are wet with the mountain rains

    And hug the rock for want of a shelter (Job 24:1-8).



    What is Job saying? “He mocks the despair of the innocent. The earth is given into the hand of the wicked; He covers the faces of its judges. If it is not He, then who is it” (Job 9:23-24)?



    This argument between Job and his friends is about social order. If God allows the wicked to be successful and run things, it at least appears on the surface that God endorses a malevolent social order. So, even if there is judgement on the wicked in the afterlife, it still does not explain why God would uphold wickedness in this life.



    When we appreciate how central Job’s desire for order is to his responses, all his casual mentions about Sheol start making sense:



    ‘Why then have You brought me out of the womb? Would that I had died and no eye had seen me! ‘I should have been as though I had not been, Carried from womb to tomb.’ Would He not let my few days alone? Withdraw from me that I may have a little cheer Before I go—and I shall not return—To the land of darkness and deep shadow, The land of utter gloom as darkness itself, Of deep shadow without order, (Earth was a “formless void” in Gen 1) And which shines as the darkness (Darkness is the antithesis of light which God made)” (Job 10:18-22).

    Yeah, Job simply wants to die so he does not feel more pain, but there is more it it than that in what we just read.

    Because God’s view of order appears to Job unjust, he wishes to go to Sheol where there is no order at all. This is the connection between Job wishing he was never born and the images of disordering creation he often invokes. God’s view of the social and moral order is wrong, according to Job. The creative order is also wrong. Therefore, this makes disorder preferable to order. (This is difficult to grasp, let me repeat this!)

    There’s more to it than that. We will cover next week about how Job is faithful and looks forward to his restoration. Sheol, to Job, is temporary. It relieves him of his sufferings until he can see God face to face.

    Let’s review the response of Job’s friends and Job himself, so we know how to internalize suffering.

    The friends are wrong in that we don’t suffer because simply because we committed sin. Neither is God’s inscrutability or our total depravity the reason.

    Likewise, Job got a lot of things wrong too. God is not overly scrupulous, inconsistent with His Gospel promises, tyrannical, or unjust in any way.

    Throughout Job, all of these different ideas are picked up and put back down in a varying order. It is easy to forget what is being talked about but just remember, they are all wrong.

    What lesson can we draw from Job’s friends’ responses? Don’t respond to suffering like Job’s friends!

    What lesson can we draw from Job’s responses? It is important to speak the truth. Everything Job said was true until he started talking about God.

    Unlike the friends who were being sophistic, Job was being sincere. So, we should be sincere but we must be aware that we ground what we view as the truth in God’s word. Job should have done this, as he did earlier in the book in his first two responses to Satan’s assaults.

    Instead, he questioned God.

    Maybe he simply did not know enough about God. God is going to fix that later! But none of us do, we like Israel, like Job, wrestle with God. We learn more about God in our wrestlings, in our suffering. But those wrestlings are mitigated if we are grounded in the Bible.
     
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