Posts Tagged ‘Evil’

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Deliver Us From Evil…

October 9, 2012

As we examine the Lord’s Prayer as found in Matthew 6, we have taken it phrase by phrase. We have examined what it means to Hallow God’s name, to seek provision, to seek forgiveness, now we will focus on seeking deliverance.

Lead us not into temptation, BUT deliver us from evil…

The word here translated deliver is the Greek word “Rhu-o-mai” ῥύομαι literally to rescue, or deliver, “to rescue from danger, save, rescue, deliver, preserve someone.” It occurs some 18 times in 15 verses. To give you a picture of its use in the New Testament texts it is used to describe:

i. Deliverance from death (2 Timothy 3:11)

ii. Deliverance from the power of darkness (Col. 1:13)

iii. Deliverance from wrath to come (1 Thes. 1:10)

iv. Deliverance from temptation (2 Peter 2:9)

v. Deliverance from evil (Matt 6:13)

Each of the above (i-iv) could be summed up in (v.) for certainly evil is the source of temptation; the power of death; and the cause of the wrath to come. But praise be to God that He and He alone has defeated evil and can deliver us. Indeed the Father is greater than all and when we are in his hand we are delivered from evil’s effect of death and nothing can snatch us out of the Father’s hand, (John 10:29) We pray to be delivered with confidence knowing that “the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect [us] from evil.” (2 Thess. 3:3) What is meant by evil and what does evil look like?

Word Study: “Evil” [evil generally/evil “one]

Evil in this passage is the Greek word is “poneros” πονηρός, in the text it possesses an article so it literally reads, “the evil” of “the evil one.” It is occurs 80 times in 72 verses in the New Testament. There have been many interpretations as to what this word means, there are two equally valid readings.

• The evil one. This would be our adversary Satan, the evil one (Eph 6:16; 1 John 2:13, 14; 3:12; 5:18-19). Satan always stands ready to test us, and lead us away from God. (e.g. Eve, Gen. 3; Job 1 & 2) Peter tells us that he is like a roaring lion, prowling the streets seeking whom he may devoir. (1 Peter 5:8) “He stirs up enemies to persecute us (Rev 12, 13), he inflames our lusts (1 Chronicles 21:1; 1 Cor. 7:5), and he disturbs our peace (1 Peter 5:8). It is therefore our consistent need and duty to pray for deliverance from him.” We pray with confidence knowing that we have been delivered our of the hands of the evil one, Christ keeps us and the evil one can not touch us (1 John 5:18)

• Evil. This rendering has evil in general in mind, specifically sin, “for sin is evil (Rom. 12:9), the world is evil (Gal. 1:4), and our corrupt nature is evil (Matt 12:35)” Our boasting is evil (James 4:16), so we humbly pray that if we find ourselves tempted/ tried that we will be delivered from sin, the source of so much evil.

a. What is the context of this request within the Sermon on the Mount?

Jesus began his instruction on prayer in 6:8 with the proclamation that God knows what we need. So prayer is not our opportunity to come to God and tell him things that He doesn’t know, but rather it a chance for us to humble ourselves and admit that we need God, in His knowledge, in His Kingdom, In His power to care for us, to provide for us, to forgive us and to delivers us from all evil. Through Christ’s instruction on prayer we learn to ask for the items we need to exist and serve God this is taught in Matthew 6:9-13.

In the next section verses 20-24 Jesus continues to turn our eyes upward away from earthly needs and wants to the desires for God’s kingdom. We are to ask for what we need daily, but we are not to store these things up. First and foremost we are to seek after God, if we focus too much on these earthly possessions they soon begin to take God’s place in our heart. And instead of focusing on Him, we focus on getting more, keeping more. But Jesus says that we cannot serve both these things and God. God must be first, and God must be the most important, because moths and rust will destroy what we have invested in this world, thieves may take it away, but no one can take God or His kingdom from us.

Even after you pray the Lord’s prayer, you may ask the question, “Great, glad I did that, but will He really do these things?” “Will God give me daily bread? Forgive me? Deliver me?” Etc. Because we are sinful it is in our nature to doubt, especially if we do not see immediate results. Paul, though, instructs us in Philippians 4:6 to “be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God.” Likewise Matthew 6:25 comes as a reassurance to our questions and concerns. Beginning in verse 25 Jesus encourages us not to worry about our material needs. Three times in this section he instructs us not to worry. (vss. 25, 31, 34) He gives the example of the birds, they live their entire existence solely dependent on God, and He feeds them. Flowers do not lie around fields worrying about whether or not they will bloom, God provides them clothing more beautiful than kings. He repeats His earlier encouragement that God knows what we need, and if we seek Him first, he will add to our lives all we need; if clothes, then clothes; if food, then food; if years, then years; so that we may continue praying, forgiving, seeking and giving Him praise.

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Concluding thoughts on Theodicy in Job…

August 1, 2012

The book of Job “anticipates the Christian witness.”[1]  The reality of suffering and the pain of death is reflected in both Job and the New testament.  But Job lacks a certain measure of fulfillment and completion because it lacks the eschatological reality of Christ.  In Christ, “the greatest evils, the betrayal and crucifixion of the Son of God, become, and are now, the greatest good for all mankind.”[2] Job experiences evil according to the foreknowledge of God, as does Christ.  But Job in his lament, lacks the power to overcome the evil; he simply begs for relief and redress.  “Jesus own life was marked by suffering with loud cries and tears.”[3]  Jesus serves as the ultimate extension and realization of the Redeemed Instrumental Theodicy.  Christ experienced evil, suffering and death all according to God’s foreknowledge, delivered into the hands of evil men, and he simply proclaims that “it is finished.”  The futility of evil was finished and suffering ceased to be final and became instrumental.

Job reflects back to all its readers the familiar pattern recognizable to anyone who has experienced suffering and God’s grace.  We face an unseen Adversary who seeks our harm.  Evil exists and manifests itself in suffering.  When we experience suffering we cannot help but be inspired to question why.  God in His grace provides a revelation of Himself which both answers our questions and exceeds our capacity to understand.  That revelation necessitates a response.  It is God’s will that those who have received His light, will darken his counsel with words of knowledge and respond in repentance.  What awaits all who respond in repentance is a restoration, exceeding their previous state of being.  This is the hope of the gospel, that beyond the cross and the grave lies a new birth into a new life where sin and evil are no more; a picture of evil redeemed and instrumental in the hands of a loving God, to and for His Glory.

Here are links to the entire Series on Theodicy in the Book of Job

Darkened Counsel

Introduction: An Evil Job Well Done…

The Free Will Theodicy: A Will to Live…

The Augustinian Theodicy: Privation in Job…

The Redeemed Instrumental Theodicy: God’s Instrumental Use of Evil…


[1] Long, 108.

[2] Anderson, 69

[3] Long, 108.

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Redeeming Evil: God’s Instrumental Use of Evil…

August 1, 2012

We have been evaluating various theodicies present in the book of Job, we now propose a theodicy which differs from the Free-will defense, and departs from the Privation defense.

Redeemed Instrumental Theodicy

We have already stated that the book of Job is a singular book with a multitude of meanings. It does not represent just one perspective, nor does it have just one focus. It is not just the story of a man’s individual hardship and an example of God’s providence in Creation. It serves as a comfort to readers, as well as a conundrum to intellectuals and philosophers. Regarding the topics of suffering and evil, the book is enormously on point and helpful to Christians who approach it. There is an undeniable comfort in knowing that whenever one undergoes trial and one groans in despair that, Job still walks at the side of the race and guarantees that there is victory.”[1]

The book of Job goes beyond what evil is, its source, its being and its function. Job illuminates for the reader the role of evil and suffering within God’s creation as an instrument of Divine purpose, wholly controlled and wholly utilized by God. Evil and suffering are not foils to God’s sovereignty, but rather elements over which He frequently and freely exercises dominion; and does so to the realization of His Glory. God’s dominion is demonstrated in His Lordship over all creation, including evil. God’s Lordship is essential to rectifying the existence of evil with His declared being of Love.[2] This Lordship is on display throughout the book of Job and in the Redeemed Instrumental Theodicy.

Redeemed Instrumental Theodicy (RIT) posits that God redeems the existence of evil by utilizing suffering in an instrumental fashion to transform creation and orient his elect toward repentance. Where “free will” sees suffering as the consequential result of human choice, and privation sees suffering as incidental to the matter of creation; RIT sees suffering as instrumental to God’s purposes for mankind. This lends meaning to what is seemingly chaos within the book of Job. The myriad of tragedies Job experiences and the profound suffering he endures, is for him an inscrutable mystery.[3] If there is a theme for this book, which carries more weight than the rest, it would be the theme of spiritual transformation.[4] God is sovereign over a set of circumstances which cause Job great suffering, but the suffering is redeemed in the transformation of Job to his repentance and recognition of God’s glory in Himself. How that glory is manifest throughout the book, and how RIT is presented throughout the book will be our focus now.

RIT in the Prologue

Few passages in Scripture give us greater insight into God’s relation to evil and suffering than does the prologue in Job. God elects Job for this challenge. It is God who first draws the Adversary’s attention to Job. God who places Job into the Adversary’s hand; and God who prescribes the extent to which the Adversary may test Job. Job experiences suffering, not because of the acts of his free will; for he is called righteous by both the narrator and God himself. Job experiences suffering due to the act of the will of God, “if God reigns then God reigns in the midst of evil.”[5] God is not surprised by evil, nor is he limited by its character. He uses evil in Job to accomplish his purposes.[6] We see in the prologue that “God has become the agent of specific suffering and death.”[7] While suffering is used by God to punish, here we see an echo of a common theme in Scripture, that God can use for good what some meant for harm.[8] This nuance is lost on Job’s friends as they attempt to reconcile Job’s suffering with what they know of God’s character. It is worth examining Redeemed Instrumental Theodicy in the poetic dialogues as well.

RIT in the Poetic Dialogues

As we have described Job’s friends seem particularly focused on the punitive role of suffering; that suffering can only the necessary consequence for evil existent in a persons life. Failure to recognize the instrumental purpose behind God’s activity leaves Job’s friends with very little to say in terms of comfort. Job acknowledges the role suffering has in punishing the deeds of the wicked. He just consistently maintains his innocence.[9] Job’s vision throughout these dialogues is unclear due to his own vexation.[10] Yet in response to the myopic perspectives of his friends, Job does outline a purpose for his suffering beyond their cries of punishment.

In chapter 17, Job endures the gaze of mockers and confesses that his spirit is broken. (vs.1) This condition has prompted him to call into the darkness for his hope. “Where is my hope? And who regards my hope?”(vs. 15) In chapter 19, we learn the focus of Job’s hope. Job’s hope is in his redeemer. In a passage worthy of the psalms Job proclaims,

25 As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives,

and at the last He will take His stand upon the earth.

26 Even after my skin is destroyed,

Yet from my flesh I shall see God.

27 Whom I myself shall behold,

and whom my eyes will see and not another

My heart faints within me.

Pregnant in this passage is the telling recognition by Job that there exists a greater purpose for his suffering. A greater purpose that will be revealed, if not now, then in the future. While Job may not fully understand his circumstances he does possess a greater understanding of character of God than his friends. The Redeemer in view here must not be confused with just any objective concept of mere vindication or legal representation. For Job, this redeemer is to be as “Yahweh himself; to be everything the friends have failed to be.”[11] God reveals himself to Job in the divine speeches, in such a way as to confirm and exceed Job’s understanding of His character. It is to those speeches we now turn, to examine the existence of Redeemed Instrumental Theodicy in God’s address.

RIT in the Divine Speeches

Amid the chaos of Job’s experience God appears to address Job and reveal His character. That God Speaks out of a whirlwind or storm is illustrative. Something that appears completely out of control is in fact orderly and congruous with God’s divine cosmic scheme. From the chaotic storm God will describe a scene of purposeful order. In fact what God offers Job and the reader is the opposite of chaos. God provides a “vision that staggers the imagination, a vision of only order, of everything — even that which must be called evil — gathered into the hands of a just God.”[12]

Job asks early on in chapter 3 why light is given to a man whose way is hidden. God’s appearance provides an answer. Job has darkened God’s counsel “by trying to justify himself at the expense of condemning God; and Job is in no position to do that.” Even though Job’s way is hidden for a time, light is given to him so that he might see God in the midst suffering and repent.[13] That the revelation of God has resulted in personal transformation and repentance is by no means accidental; nor is it unique within Scripture.[14] God’s description of creation not only communicates His control over that creation but also His “maternal care for His creation.” This care is displayed in Job’s life against the backdrop of his suffering. “If an innocent person suffers, then, it will be because a good God, a loving God involved face to face with his creatures, produces out of his suffering a good meant for that person which in the circumstances couldn’t have produced, or produced as well, without the suffering.”[15] Suffering rather than being merely punitive, as envisioned by Job’s friends, is utilized instrumentally to transform Job and bring him to repentance.

Though many complain that God does not explicitly address Job’s individual complaints, and perhaps seems cold and distant; one cannot argue with the image of God’s care pictured in Job’s final restoration. An additional picture is present in the Job story that when seen in the full counsel of scripture gives credence to the Redeemed Instrumental Theodicy.


[1] Soren Kierkegaard. Edifying Discourses. Translated from the Danish by David F. Swenson (Minneapolis: Augsburg Pub. 1944. Vol. II pp 7-26. Reprinted in the Voice out of the Whirlwind: The Book of Job, ed. Ralph E. Hone. San Francisco, 1960. 140.

[2] I John 4:16 “So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”(emphasis mine)

[3] Carson, Job…, 43.

[4] “Stephen Mitchell observed that William Blake, Who created a series of engravings on Job, “is the only one who seems to understand that the theme of this book is spiritual transformation.” Thomas G. Long What Shall We Say?: Evil, Suffering and the Crisis of Faith. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans. 2011. 96. Susannah Ticciati likewise argues that Job’s integrity is “not about being or becoming anything… but about being transformed. Job’s integrity is constituted by his ongoing transformation.” (Bartholomew, 164.)

[5] Johnson, William Stacy. The Reign of God in Theological Perspective. In Interpretation: a Journal of Biblical Theology. Vol 47. No. 2 April 1993. p135. Also consider these scripture texts as evidence of God’s sovereignty in the face of sin: Gen 31:7, Ex. 21:12-13, Mark 5:12-13, Acts 14:15, 16:7, I Cor. 16:7, and Heb 6:3. (Ware106-107) See also Deut. 32:39 “”‘See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand.” Also Isaiah 45:7 “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these [things]” (KJV)

[6] A foreshadowing of what is to come with Christ. Acts 2:23.

[7] Dumbrell, 261.

[8] Genesis 50:20

[9] Dumbrell, 256.

[10] Job 17:7

[11] Fyall, 47. Fyall also writes concerning the “go’el”, “Throughout the Old Testament is a legal and relational term referring to Yahweh as champion and kinsman of Israel, and the term applied to him and sees them operating essentially as Yahweh’s representatives.” (47)

[12] Long, 108.

[13] Job confesses in 42:5-6, “now my eye sees you, Therefore I retract and I repent in dust and ashes.”

[14] One can consider Isaiah’s vision in Isa. 6 or even Paul’s experience on the Damascus Road. Acts 9

[15] Eleonore Stump. “Faith and the Problem of Evil.” In Seeking Understanding: The Stob Lectures 1986-1998, Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2001. 524

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An Evil Job Well Done: The Book of Job, an introduction…

July 6, 2012

One might wonder why we should seek an answer to the existence of evil in the world.  In attempting to find an answer it is impossible not to deal with some very difficult concepts and even painful, corrupt imagery.  However as rational beings created in the image of an orderly God we seek orderly explanations for the chaos which confronts us.  So into the darkness we peer; but as theists, furthermore as Christians, we learn most about the darkness by studying the attributes of light.  To put it into different terms we are best served to gain an understanding of evil through gaining an understanding of the God which evil opposes.  Fundamentally we seek to answer the age-old question of compatibility and consistency: how can the God revealed to us in attributes of love, kindness, mercy, justice and fairness co-exist with the mystery of lawlessness at work in this world?[1]  There are many approaches to this question.  Atheists, by their very nature, must simply deal with the evidences of evil laid out before them without the slightest ability to define, contain or confront the problem absent the contrast of God.  Absent the God of light, atheists have only shadows amid darkness.   Thus evil must and can only be answered, with satisfaction, by theists.

Among theists there exists a number of theories attempting to reconcile the existence of God with the presence and activity of evil.  For Christians the task remains to examine their world in light of God’s revelation to them in His word.  Within the pages of Scripture is revealed the character and attributes of the God who created all things, all things were created by Him, and apart from him nothing came into being that has come into being.[2]  The truth underlying that statement is easy to gloss over, but one does so at great peril to his understanding of God and the created realm.  One must bring against the existence of evil and suffering the recorded truth that God created all things in existence.  This may be done with cool reflection in the pages of commentaries and systematic textbooks, but when this truth intersects human life and experience the task becomes painfully difficult.

When seeking to understand evil against the backdrop of God’s recorded character few venues exists with the relevance of the book of Job.  This obscure book about an little known man from an unknown time provides the Christian with perhaps the greatest opportunity outside of the gospels to gain a picture of God in relation to the activity of evil and the result of man’s suffering in the world .

The reader of Job is provided with an outsiders perspective “that a sophisticated story-teller is at work, teaching us something about the nature of human life: while life for Job on the inside is hell, life viewed from above seems to have some kind of structure and purpose.”[3]  We shall now examine the books structure and purpose.

Overview

            The book of Job does not lend itself to concise review.  While not the longest book in the Old Testament, its complexity and depth of meaning and form have defied consensus.  Is it a narrative? Yes.  Is it a book of ANE poetry? Yes.  Does it belong in the genre of Biblical wisdom literature? Yes.  Is it Hebrew in origin? This is unknown, “the atmosphere of the book is non-Israelite and patriarchal.”[7]  There is a strong Aramaic flavor to the vocabulary and more hapax legomena and rare words than any other book in the Bible.[8]  For some, the book is an indispensable tool for addressing theological/philosophical issues such as suffering and pain.  For others the book is merely a story of a man, his loss, his search and his discovery.[9]  Regardless of the viewpoint or interpretation, there lies within Job a truth which seems to connect with the human condition.  Moreover, Job gives us a glimpse into the inner workings of God’s interaction with the created order that is unequaled.  In light of this we shall proceed to outline the book for our purposes.  Job can readily be broken into three segments of dialogue: the prologue (1:1-2:13); the poetic dialogues (3:1-37:24) and the Divine speeches (38:1-42:6).[10]

The Prologue

In the prologue we meet Job and learn of his situation and meet most of the characters of importance.  Job, his wife, children, and servants occupy the earthly realm.  God, the sons of God, and the Adversary occupy the divine council presumably in the heavens.  From the opening lines evil begins to factor into this story.  Job is described by the narrator, and later by God, as a man “blameless, upright, fearing God and turning away from evil.”[11]  Despite Job’s efforts to flee evil, evil is in pursuit of him.  When the divine council convenes in chapter 1, we see the one called the adversary come among the sons of God into His presence.  The Adversary or “הַשָּׂטָ֔ן”[12] is addressed by God and posed with a question, from this we learn that the adversary goes to and froe about the earth.  The next question is all the more relevant to the story,” הֲשַׂמְתָּ  לִבְּךָ  אֶל־עַבְדִּי אִיֹּוב ” literally ‘have you set your heart on my servant Job.’[13]  God seems to be inquiring about the desire of the Adversary, not merely about his consideration.  We are not informed as to whether or not Job has been desired previously by the adversary;  but it is now clear that Job is in his sights and the game is joined.  In a very crucial step, God grants the adversary permission to strike Job’s possessions.  Which the Adversary does, eliminating via murder Job’s servants (1:15; 1:17); theft Job’s livestock (1:14; 1:17); fire from heaven for Job’s sheep and servants (1:16); and wind for Job’s family (1:19).  Here we see the proliferation in Job’s life of three elements of what is considered evil; metaphysical evil, moral evil, and natural evil.

Metaphysical evil was manifest in the out-stretched hand of the Adversary, who un-benounced to Job and all surrounding parties was manipulating the various hardships befalling him.  Moral evil was present in the acts of theft and murder committed by the Sabines and Chaldeans who raided Job’s flocks and killed his servants.  Natural evil was present in the fire, which consumed Job’s sheep and the great wind which obliterated his children.  This triad of trauma leaves Job with only four servants and his wife.  The testing is continued and escalated in the next chapter.

The prologue concludes in chapter 2 with a resumption of the divine counsel, a second inquiry concerning Job and a second permission granted the adversary to advance Job’s suffering just short of death.  The adversary strikes Job with what are literally “evil sores” covering his entire body.[14]  Job, despite his loss and affliction has yet to curse God, and as a result, has maintained his character.  That character will be tested and show signs of strain as he begins, intellectually, to come to grips with his condition and interact with the next four characters entering the scene.  The prologue sets the stage for the dialogue to follow in the subsequent chapters.  In an ironic twist the reader is made aware of facts that Job and his friends will struggle in vain to discover.  The reader enters chapter 3 and the poetic dialogues knowing three pertinent facts, One. Job is blameless; Two. All suffering “falls within the sweep of God’s sovereignty;” and Three. Some suffering is related to sin and some suffering is “not directly related to any sin.”[15]

The Poetic Dialogues

Chapters 3 through 37 contain, next to Isaiah, the greatest concentration of biblical poetry outside of the Psalms.  The poetry is embedded in a series of speeches.  These speeches form a verbal interplay between Job, his three friends Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar and the young man Elihu.  Having been denied access to the heavenly court envisioned in chapters 1 and 2, Job essentially sets up a tribunal sitting at the city gate, surrounded by his friends, holding court.[16]  But if it was his intent to try God, he soon finds that he himself is the defendant.  His friends rather than coming to his defense serve as witnesses for the prosecution; and Elihu seems more than willing to offer some unsolicited closing arguments indicting Job and his friends while defending God.

If we gained an insight into the Divine interaction with evil in the prologue then the poetic dialogues will provide an illuminating picture of human conceptions of evil, wickedness and suffering.  Job initiates the dialogue with a critique of creation and his placement in it.  Job’s lament in the face of such meaningless suffering is the manifests itself in the cry to be uncreated.[17]  In the midst of these cries and demands for justice, Job repeatedly affirms God’s existence and His character.  Job’s lament is that his own experience is not lining up with the way God is supposed to act toward the righteous.  D.A. Carson in his book, How Long O Lord, describes Job’s speeches in this way:

Job’s speeches are the anguish of a man who knows God, who wants to know Him better, who never once doubts the existence of God, who remains convinced, at bottom, of the justice of God–but who cannot make sense of these entrenched beliefs in the light of his own experience.[18]

While Job attempts to reconcile reality with God, his friends are determined to redefine that reality based on the human condition.

Each of Job’s friends seeks to educate him on the human condition and the proper response to misfortune. In regards to this condition, Eliphaz addresses the role of the innocent in chapters 4-5.  Zophar follows in chapter 11 with a discussion on judgment that rightly befalls the wicked, and resumes in chapter 20 affirming that suffering awaits the wicked.  Bildad continues in chapter 13 describing the necessity of punishment and in chapter 25 the depravity of man.

Each also addresses the proper human response to what appears to be the judgment of God.  Bildad argues for repentance in chapter 8.  Eliphaz promotes a healthy fear of God in Chapter 15 and the necessity of humility in chapter 22.  Throughout this barrage of instruction Job listens and responds.  Rather than capitulating to their reason he uses their arguments to build his case for his own innocence.[19]  These speeches serve as stepping stones amidst the stream of Job’s thought; he will use each to slowly make his way to a right understanding of God.  But before he can achieve closure, he must contend with Elihu.

Elihu provides a lengthy and nuanced, if not original, line of reasoning.  He is above all concerned with two things, establishing his own authority to speak and defending God against charges of injustice.  For Elihu, God is blameless and sovereign able to do as he pleases for loving-kindness or correction.[20]  In this line of reasoning he is slightly more Theo-centric in his arguments than the previous speakers.[21]  But overall his purpose seems to be as a lead up; setting the stage for God’s appearance and a general change in tone during the divine speeches.

The Divine Speeches

Few passages in scripture are more profound, and from the standpoint of the reader more anti-climactic, than God’s dialogue with Job in Chapters 38-42.  As with all trials the judge is the last to speak and His words carry the greatest weight.  What is often found objectionable by readers of this book, is the apparent lack of empathy and lack of justification God provides in His address to Job.  “God does not answer Job’s questions about the problem of evil and suffering, but He makes it unambiguously clear what questions are unacceptable in God’s universe.”[22]  God, in a series of eighty rhetorical questions[23], gives Job a glimpse of the universe which far exceeds his capacity to understand.  Job did not have National Geographic, most likely very little understanding of the world outside his own region.  Yet God uses the world as His schoolroom, granting Job a greater knowledge of himself, his world and of God.[24]  The “poem that God speaks out of the storm soars beyond anything that has preceded it in the book.”[25]  God displays his mastery of the heavens above in chapter 38; and the earth below in chapter 39.  God describes his mastery of what is feared on earth through the taming of Behemoth in Chapter 40.  And He assures Job that that which is not seen in the chaos of the sea, leviathan likewise, is under His control in chapter 41.  This display reduces the once proud and verbose Job to the simple confession of repentance.  Whether Job gained a point-by-point refutation of his complaint or not seems meaningless to him.  That God has spoken is enough for Job.[26]  Job is subsequently renewed by God, his friends are rebuked, and Elihu is relegated to silence.

Ultimately the book closes by proving of God’s intent to show “that a human being can love God, fear God, and pursue righteousness without receiving prompt reward.” [27] Indeed the pursuit of God may occur and may be made all the more meaningful through the experience of evil and suffering.  Through all God is sovereign and in control over the suffering that man experiences and the evil which instigates it.

In part Two of the introduction we shall continue our discussion of evil in the book of Job by exposing the book to three forms of theodicy, with the purpose of gaining a clearer picture of God’s purpose behind evil and suffering.


[1] The Mystery of Lawlessness as described by Paul in 2 Thessalonians 2:7. “for the mystery of lawlessness is already at work…”

[2] John 1:3

[3] Craig G. Bartholomew and Ryan O’Dowd. Old Testament Wisdom Literature: a Theological introduction. Downers Grove: IVP Academic. 2011. 135.

[4]The belief that the source of evil is the given ability man possesses to choose freely, and that suffering results consequently from the sinful exercise of the free-will.

[5] The belief that source of evil is found in the lack of God’s good creation, evil itself does not exist but rather is merely the absence of good, suffering is then seen as merely an incidental part of God’s creation.

[6] For our purposes the text of Job can be broken down into three primary segments: the prologue (1:1-2:13); the poetic dialogues (3:1-37:24) and the Divine speeches (38:1-42:6).  Bartholomew, 136.

[7] William Dumbrell. The Faith of Israel: a Theological survey of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic. 2002. 254.

[8] Ralph L. Smith. Introduction to the book of Job. Southwestern Journal of Theology 14, No. 1 (1971): 6.

[9] Francis Anderson. Job: an Introduction and Commentary. Downers Grove: IVP 1976. 64.

[10]Bartholomew, 136.

[11]Job 1:1; 1:8; 2:3 The evil mentioned in each is the Hebrew word ” רע ”  rah’ which appears 15 times in the book of Job, 6 times within the two chapters of the prologue. “ רע   ” among its 663 different uses it is translated some 442 times in the Old Testament as “evil” including Genesis 2:9 in the “tree of knowledge of Good and evil”  the discovery of which heralded the fall of man and the beginning of sin on earth. (BDG)

[12]Much has been written on whether or not this is in fact the one described in the New Testament as Satan.  The fact that the noun has the article would seem to suggest that it is in fact a definite title rather than a name.  However, the actions of this adversary speak much larger than his title.  For he seems to thrive on opposing God and His creation, seeking to see the creation renounce its creator, which is consistent with the role of the serpent in Genesis 3.  Even his movements seem consistent with that of the devil who is also described as roaming about the earth seeking whom he may devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

[13] The interrogatory phrase ,לִבְּךָ   הֲשַׂמְתָּ  or “Have you set your heart?” is often translated “have you considered,” combining the two words into one abstract meaning.  However, לִבְּךָ or ‘leb’ is translated some 508 times in the Old Testament as heart.  It seems more literal to see this as the workings of the heart rather than the conideration of the mind.  Seeing the adversary’s apparent relishing of his task in returning a second time into the divine council and provoking God yet a second time, seems to point perhaps to some desire on his part to see Job curse God.

[14]  “מִכַּף רָע ” Here ‘ra’ is used again, translated literally as ‘evil boils’.

[15] D.A. Carson. Job; Mystery and Faith. The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology Vol. 4 No.2 (Summer 2000): 41.

[16] Robert Fyall in his book  Now my Eyes have seen You: images of creation and evil in the book of Job. (Downers Grove: IVP. 2002.)  posits  that there exists within Job a host of legal imagery which serves as a major “literary device which integrates the narrative procession and theological motif.” (31)

[17] “Chapter three is Job’s lament: like Jeremiah (20:14-18), he wishes he had never been born.” Carson, Job. 41.

[18] D. A. Carson. How Long of Lord: Reflections on Suffering and Evil. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic. 1990, 2006. 146.

[19] One could argue that by the end of their dialogue they had reached such an impasse, as “the three men stopped answering Job, because he was righteous in his own eyes.” (Job 32:1)  Carson, How Long… 147.

[20]Job 37:13

[21] Even though Elihu appears to be more orthodox in his arguments, the irony is that his arguments “continually contradict the threefold affirmation in the prologue (1:1, 8, 2:3) and God’s confirmation of Job in 42:7” Bartholomew, 143.

[22] Carson, How Long.. 151.

[23] Bartholomew, 144.

[24] Anderson, 269. The two, knowledge of self and of God, “always go together in the Bible.”

[25] Robert Alter. The Art of Biblical Poetry. New York: Basic. 1985. 87.

[26] Anderson, 269.

[27]Carson, Job., 43.

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The King Opposed Again…

June 1, 2012

Part 5: The King Opposed… Again

When we reach the gospels we are no longer dealing with a mere type of the messiah, we are dealing with the messiah realized in Jesus the Christ.  Jesus’ appearance on the scene of history results in an abundance of opposition from a number of sources.  He is opposed by Satan, self-exalting Pharisees, deceitful disciples, and murderous demoniacs.  It is hard to explain the rise in evil opposition except to say that the coming of the kingdom of God was the in-breaking of a great light into a dark world.  This powerful light cast many shadows and when the true light of Christ came into the world shadows appeared and were vanquished.  The darkness did not overcome the light, rather the light overcame the darkness.[1]  The darkness deepens and the opposition reaches a head with Christ’s betrayal at the hands of Judas Iscariot.  As we examine this narrative, it will be helpful to set the scene.

The King (Jesus) has entered the city of Jerusalem in triumph. (Luke 19:28)  He is hosting a Passover feast.  At the feast he subtly identifies the one who will betray him. (John 13:21)  Judas has been deceitfully looking for an opportunity to betray Jesus into the hands of the chief priests. (Matthew 26:16)  Judas obtains leave from Jesus to depart, at which point, he is entered into by Satan. (John 13:27)  The King departs Jerusalem, crosses the Kidron valley, and goes up to the Mount of Olives to pray and weep. (John 18:1; Luke 22:39-46)  Judas arms himself with a cohort of Roman soldiers and officers from the Pharisees and pursues Jesus to the Mount of Olives. (John 18:3)  Here the King does not flee, for His hour has come. (John 12:23)  Jesus is taken, tried and killed.  Judas flees the city, hangs himself in a tree, his body is pierced, his entrails pour out, and he is buried without glory in an anonymous field.[2]  Then the King (Jesus) returns to the city,  having been made alive by the power of God, and His people gathered near to Him. (John 20:19-29)

One can hardly recount this narrative without being struck by the picture presented in light of scripture.  The similarities should be apparent.  King Jesus, from the line of David, reigns in this narrative confronted with the opposition of one close to Him.  One who is proud, seeking to exalt himself, deceiving others, with murder his goal.  Judas share the source of evil, the means of evil and the end of evil in opposition to God’s anointed.  One can observe in this narrative a multi-layering of nuance.  Is Jesus being opposed by Judas as David was opposed by Absalom? Yes.  Is Jesus being opposed by Satan as Satan opposed Yahweh in Isaiah? Yes.  The glorious difference between the texts is the immediacy of Jesus’ reversal of the opposition, rendering it mute by his timely resurrection.  Now that these three texts have been laid out, we shall compare them and attempt to gain insight and hope in observing the futility of those who oppose God.


[1]  “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” John 1:5

[2] Matt 27:5; Acts 1:18, Matt 27:8-10; Acts 1:19.

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The Mighty Have Fallen: Evil Opposition in Isaiah 14…

May 29, 2012

Part 4 Evil Opposition in Isaiah 14…

In the past three posts we have introduced the concept that there is a textual and thematic connection in scripture which serve to give us a picture of the means and method of Evil’s opposition to God and His chosen Messiah.  We have looked at the characteristics of Evil opposition in Genesis and throughout the Old Testament, and we have examined a heightened type of this opposition in the Absalom Narrative in 2 Samuel 15.  Now we turn our attention to the presence of this opposition in Isaiah 14.

Isaiah 14:12-20 is often used as a text to describe the character and even origins of Satan.[1]  For our purposes we will assume the majority position that this passage in Isaiah, while directed at the king of Babylon, is also alluding to the fallen one, Satan.[2]

The passage comes in the middle of a taunt that Israel is to direct, by order of Yahweh, at the king of Babylon.  Here Babylon is the force in opposition to God’s anointed.  Many of the elements needed for evil opposition are present.  Pride, self-exaltation (14:13), murder (14:17) and a certain demise. (14:19)  Verse 19 shall be our primary focus.  I maintain that Isaiah has Absalom prefigured in this passage and especially in verse 19.  While one could certainly argue that the pride and self-exaltation on display would be common to any number of opposition narratives within the Bible; verse 19 serves to narrow our focus and tie this text to Absalom’s narrative.

Verse 19 is as follows:

       “But you have been cast out of your tomb

Like a rejected branch,

Clothed with the slain who are pierced with a sword,

Who go down to the stones of the pit,

Like a trampled corpse.

(Isaiah 14:19 NASB)

While the Hebrew text does not support many lexical links between this passage and 2 Samuel 18, we will explore the conceptual similarities at work.  In Isaiah, we have one who is cast out; who is like a “loathed branch, clothed with the slain;”  who is “pierced with a sword;” and is thrown down, buried in a pit, with stones.  Within this verse we see a four elements that the two texts share in common.  First we can see that the figure is cast out. Absalom was cast out as he fled from the scene of battle. (2 Sam 18:9)  Second, Samuel describes Absalom as being caught in the branch of a tree, figuratively clothing the branch of a tree with his slain body.  Third, He is pierced with a sword by Joab.  Fourth Absalom is buried in a pit covered with stones. (2 Sam 18:15,17)  Ultimately he is denied the right to be buried like a king, failing to be united with his royal heritage in burial. (Isa. 14:20)

These similarities are striking and serve to add meaning to both the text in 2 Samuel and this text in Isaiah, which allows the careful reader to see a greater nuance in the reproach against the King of Babylon.  Though he is like Satan in his pride and Absalom in his actions, he shares the fate of both.  He will be cast down, and meet his end like those who are a “loathed branch, clothed with the slain,” “pierced with the sword”, “buried in the pit.”  A certain end for one who opposes Yahweh.

Is Isaiah 14 speaking of Satan when it describes one “fallen from heaven… cut down to the earth…”? Most likely yes.  Is Isaiah 14 recording a taunt from Israel meant for the king of Babylon? Yes.  Is it also giving us a picture of evil opposition as seen in the Absalom narrative?  I believe that it is.  But it is also giving the reader a picture of another opposition scene.  I believe that both the Absalom narrative and the Isaiah passage, in addition to reflecting meaning on each other, serve to craft an image of a greater opposition yet to come.  We will now look how both of these passages serve to reflect and inform the narrative of Christ’s betrayal at the hand of Judas.


[1] “It is possible that there is a reference to the fall of Satan… Isaiah uses language that seems too strong to be referring to any merely human king.” Wayne Grudem Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 2000. 413.

[2] It is true that some commentators disagree with this assessment and view the exalted language as mere poetic imagery, (See John D.W. Watts Word Biblical Commentary on Isaiah 1-33, Waco: Word Pub. 1985. 212.)  Watts argues that there is little linking the account of the fall of Satan in Rev 12 with the description here in Isa 14.  It seems more plausible that this passage as pointing to Satan, “not directly but indirectly, much like the way the kings of the line of David point to Christ.” (See Geoffrey W. Grogan. Expositor’s Bible Commentary Vol 6, Isaiah. Grand Rapids: Zondervan. 1986. 105)

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The Character of Evil…

May 25, 2012

 

The character of evil opposition to God and His anointed is marked in the narrative of scripture by a source, a means, and a certain end.  The source of evil opposition to God is seen in pride.  Pride is the root of evil.  Those who oppose God and his anointed are in essence saying that they know better, and that God’s way is not good enough.  This is seen in the opening chapters of Genesis, where the “crafty” serpent puts forth an alternative command to God’s law.  Creation was given the best and utmost good to worship in God, when that good was rejected for the lesser worship of self, pride appears.  “Pride lies behind all transgressions,”[1] and is the key indicator of evil’s presence.  Good angels, and arguably the good man Adam (pre-fall) remained free of sin and evil as long as they would, “cleave to Him who supremely is.”  “If we ask the cause of the misery and of the bad, it occurs to us, and not unreasonably, that they are miserable because they have forsaken Him who supremely is.”[2] It was pride that led Eve and Adam to trust in their own judgment rather than to listen to God.

God curses the Serpent and prescribes a curse that will dictate the course of history.  Enmity will exist between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman.  This enmity or opposition will be rooted in pride, but will be carried out in a number of ways.  While source of evil opposition is singular; the means it uses to accomplish its mission are many.

For our purposes we are going to focus on three means by which evil opposes God and His creation: self-exaltation, deceit, and murder.  One could argue that within chapters 3-4 in Genesis we see all three of these played out.  Adam and Eve seek to exalt themselves and be like God, knowing good and evil. (3:5) The Serpent deceives Adam and Eve. (3:4,13)  Cain succumbs to sin, seeking to avenge his honor (exaltation), and murders his brother (4:8), and then attempts to deceive God. (4:9)  We see these same means at work ad nauseum before the flood as the whole of mankind became irreconcilably wicked.  After the flood, in the persons of Nimrod (exaltation; Gen 11:4); Jacob (deceit; Gen 27:30-35); Joseph’s brothers (murder, deceit; Gen 37); Pharaoh’s opposition to God’s people (murder Ex 1:16; exaltation 14:1-31) to name just a few.  Evil is sourced in pride, it is carried out by means of self-exaltation, deceit and murder, and it has as its end the opposition of God.

If the chief end of man is glorify God and enjoy Him forever, then it should of little surprise that the chief end of evil is to oppose God and to rob His creation of joy.[3]  This end, however is two-fold; it is a goal and a destination.  It is a goal in that from pride comes the desire to exalt one’s self, to deceive others and murder to achieve the goal of opposing God.  But this end is also a destination as all those who oppose God’s anointed are cursed and destined to be crushed.  Those whose end it is to oppose God, will in fact, meet their end in the process of opposition.

God prophesies as much to the serpent about its seed.[4]  God promises as much about those who oppose Abram.[5]  God displays as much to the wicked in Sodom, Pharaoh in Egypt, Dathan against Moses; the Philistines in Canaan etc.[6]  Those who act in pride, through self-exaltation, deceit, and murder to oppose God, will be crushed and meet their end. These threads of action are woven throughout the bible.  At times, as in the above examples, only one or two threads are present.  But when multiple threads are present a specific picture of opposition emerges and evil can clearly be seen.  Nowhere in the Old Testament text are more threads present than in the narrative of Absalom’s opposition of David.

In the next post, Part 3, We will focus on the David and Absalom narrative and pick at the threads to unravel the story.


 

[1] Schwarz, 117.

[2]  Augustine of Hippo, The City of God, Kindle Electronic Edition: Location 7298-7300.

[3] The Westminster Shorter Catechism 1647, Question 1:. What is the chief end of man? Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God,  and to enjoy him for ever.

[4] Genesis 3:15 “He (the seed of the woman) will bruise your head, and you shall bruise him on the heal.”

[5]Genesis 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.”

[6]Genesis 19; Exodus 14;  Numbers 16; 1 Samuel 4