Posts Tagged ‘God’

h1

Casting upon a Caring God…

August 27, 2012

1 Peter is one of my favorite books in the Bible, so rich and so full of powerful applicable theology.

One of the most powerful verses or sets of verses in the book come as Peter is concluding his letter to the elect exiles in Pontus, Galatia, Capadoccia and Bythinia, Chapter 5:6-7.

“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your cares upon Him because He cares for you.”

Believers must humble themselves under God’s might hand, regardless of how that hand is made manifest.  They might experience that hand in judgment through persecution, or deliverance through protection.  Regardless of how His hand is experienced, the believers response is one of humility.  They accomplish this act of humility by casting their anxieties on God.  Peter has provided the reader with the “what” (humility), and the “how” (casting), but now he moves in short order to provide the “why.”  Believers approach God and rely on Him because He cares for them.  This simple profound truth animates the entire text of 1 Peter, indeed it is seen through out the scriptures.  This type of care is seen in the gospel of John 10:13; where Jesus tells of the hired hand that abandons the sheep because he does not care for them.  In contrast, the shepherd would leave the flock to pursue even one lost sheep.  This caring and concern is in view in this passage.

God cares for His people from beginning to end, throughout all circumstances.  We do not rely on an unsympathetic God, or one who is distant or emotionally uninvolved.  No, Peter systematically displays the myriad of ways in which God cares for His people.   Listing them below grants us the ability to grasp the scope of Peter’s depiction of God’s manifold care for His people:

-1:3 God has caused us to be born again to a new hope.

-1:4 God has given us an inheritance

-1:5 God guards us

-1:9 God grants us the salvation of our souls

-1:18 God ransoms us from futile ways

-2:5 God Builds us up

-2:8-9 God calls us out of darkness and into marvelous light

-2:10 God makes us His people and gives us mercy

-2:21 Christ suffered for us, providing us an example

-4:11, 13 God allows us to take part in the glory of Christ

-5:4 God will give us an unfading crown of glory

-5:7 God cares for us

-5:10 God will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish us.

In the face of this litany, Peter asks his readers to cast their anxieties on God; this is an ultimate act of humility.  We are to be humble because God cares for us.  We are to display our humility by casting our anxieties on Him.  These truths form the essence of 1 Peter.

Advertisements
h1

A Will to Live: The Free Will Theodicy in Job…

July 10, 2012

The existence of evil and suffering poses a problem to many who profess a belief in the God revealed in the Bible.  God has revealed himself to be omnipotent, omniscient, and all-loving; God cannot be the author of evil and still be the God He has declared Himself to be.[1]  When evil is made manifest in suffering the sufferers cry out for restitution to those responsible.  If God has made all things, and made all things good, why then is there evil?  Is He not responsible?

The free-will defense postulates that God is indeed good; and that his creation is good.  One of the good things created within God’s universe was the freedom of the individual will.  Free will makes evil possible, or rather God made evil possible by creating free will; but it is the incorrect exercise of free will that makes evil actual.[2]  Evil actions then are solely a result of human choice.  God is hence removed from responsibility for evil acts.  While they happen under His sovereign purview, He is bound to allow them for he must respect human free will.  Without free will, mankind would lack the capability to choose freely and would be relegated to a world of determinism and would be incapable of making good moral choices.[3]  Mankind, too, would lack any culpability for the choices it made since acts would not be the result of free choice but some other compulsion.

Key to this understanding is the realization that in this system of thinking, suffering can be seen as consequential to the acts of evil freely chosen by the will of others.  In this system, misfortune is a consequence of free choice; God is removed as the responsible party and man is left with little recourse but to plea that God will deal mercifully with His creation based on their choices, whether good or bad.

When considering the full ramifications of the free will defense, one cannot help but view God in a somewhat limited capacity.  God is the creator of the universe, including freewill, but seems somehow restricted in the exercise of His power.  Maintaining man’s ability to exercise a will free of coercion is paramount.  In the words of Harold Kushner, “God gives us room to be human.”  There is little room in this view for a divine sovereignty who arranges everything in advance.[4]  How we act determines whether or not evil occurs.  The evil that we do, we do freely, otherwise we could not justly face punishment for our acts.[5]   God is left to react to our deeds and either redeem them or condemn them.  So how does this explanation for evil and suffering interact with the text of Job?

Free-will in the Prologue

Within the created order on display in the prologue of Job there are many competing wills.  Job wills to be upright and chooses to flee evil.  His children will to eat and drink, perhaps to excess; as a result Job seeks to atone for them.  The Adversary wills to roam about the earth and question the motives of God’s creatures.  The Sabines and Chaldeans will to gain property via theft.  These separate free wills collide and impinge upon each other resulting in the drama of the text.  Absent the divine council, we would be left to sort out the disparate wills and watch how they interact; attempting to determine where, if anywhere, God is in the mix.  However, within the text we have an unprecedented picture of how God interacts with his creation in the image of the divine council.  Job’s exercise of his righteous will has gained God’s notice.  But it is unclear as to whether Job is righteous due to his actions, or because God declares him to be so (1:8, 2:3).  Satan’s desire (or will) is directed toward Job[6], in an attempt to see if Job can be made to curse God and renounce his righteous position.  It is hard to escape the ramifications of the chain of events that follows.  God grants the Adversary permission to strike Job; the Adversary in-turn uses the Sabines and Chaldeans as well as natural forces to do just that.  While Job, his family, the Sabines and Chaldeans all appear to have free will, it is undeniable that they are being orchestrated by the foreknowledge and permission of God through his instrument, the Adversary.  The wills of the attackers seem reliant on the Adversary; the will of the Adversary is reliant on God; and the will of Job, rather than being rewarded, is frustrated by suffering loss.   Job has willed nothing to incur judgment yet, suffer he does.  We are left at the end of prologue with an unsatisfied Adversary and an undeterred Job.

If suffering within the free-will defense is seen as consequential, it is difficult to identify the freely committed evil acts of Job, his servants, livestock or children, that merited the consequences of suffering and death they incurred.   Job himself, will argue as much in the following chapters as he seeks to defend himself against unmerited disfavor.  The reactions of his friends illuminate for us the prevalence of the free-will defense within the ANE world.

Free-will in the Dialogues

The dialogues begin with Job’s lament over his situation as well as an indictment of the way the world appears to operate.  Job’s tirade in chapter 3 seems to bring all of creation under critique and question why life is given if it is not honored according to ones actions.  “Why is light given to a man whose way is darkened?”[7]   Each of his friends assume the position that suffering is consequential, the result of man’s will given over to sinful action.  Perhaps the sinful action is hidden in Job, but it is assumed by his three friends that sin is present in his life and he is suffering the due recompense for his actions.   If you have not sinned you should not be suffering.  This is part of the human condition; those who are innocent have nothing to fear as Eliphaz states, “He sets on high those who are lowly…and saves the poor from the hand of the mighty.”[8]  He goes on to ask mockingly in chapter 22, “is it because of your reverence that He reproves you, that he enters into judgment against you?”

It is assumed by the parties that Job’s “wickedness is great, and (his) iniquities without end.”[9]  To each reproach Job will maintain his innocence and protest his state.  Suffering, under the free-will defense and within the arguments of Job’s friends, is seen as a punitive measure taken by God to repay sin.  There appears to be very few other explanations offered other than Job is receiving his just deserts for sin.[10]  Furthermore, they argue, he should cease his protest, confess and accept the world the way it is.  In the Divine speeches God will effectively confound this man-centered defense and reorient Job’s view to take into account God’s control over creation and the comfort that brings.

Free-Will in the Divine Speeches

If Job has exercised his free will up to this point in questioning God and demanding answers, God immediately challenges Job’s will by in essence asking, “who are you to question me without knowledge.”  God does not disprove the existence of man’s free will, rather he renders that free will as almost inconsequential within his creation.  Whether addressing the creation of the cosmos, the stars in heaven, or the rain on uninhabited lands, God seeks to explode upon the mind of this man a vision of a world far more complex and glorious than previously considered.  Indeed God validates Job’s innocent will, by failing to attribute to him any specific sin and restoring his lost possessions and health.  So it would seem that Job’s sufferings are not the consequences of his actions.

The free will defense maintains the absolute need of free will within God’s created order.  However, God displays in His speech a control over nature that is absolute.  His control extends even to those feared forces outside of man’s ability to control, behemoth and leviathan.  Both creatures from the perspective of man seem to go where they please, it has been argued that leviathan is a representation of the Adversary himself.[11]  Hidden for some thirty-nine chapters, he reappears immune to the will of man.  God asks, concerning leviathan, “will you take him as a servant forever?  Will the traders bargain over him?”[12]  What man longs, in vain, to control God understands and overpowers.

That evil arises from man’s God-given ability to will freely; and that God is somehow subservient to the necessity of that will’s existence, seems ludicrous in light of the awesome display of the divine presence in Job.  God arrives at the time and in the manner of his own choosing; in a storm which “cloaks the fierce otherness of the presence of God in his fullness in the midst of the world of human experience.”[13]  God communicates the message that the only free will that is inviolable is His own, as He withholds light from the wicked and breaks the uplifted arm.[14]  We must conclude then that the free-will defense is lacking as an explanation for evil’s existence and suffering’s meaning.  We shall next consider the privation defense; evil as a privation of good and evaluate it as it relates to the book of Job.


[1] We know that no one should call God evil, for He tempts no one, nor does he insight anyone to commit evil. See James 1:13

[2]Norman Geisler. If God, Why Evil. Grand Rapids: Bethany House Pub. 2011. 29, 31.

[3] Geisler, 38.  Geisler states that the existence of free will is absolutely necessary in a moral universe, for “all moral choices are free choices.”  To remove free choice would be to remove both praise and blame for any act committed.

[4] Douglas John Hall. God and Human Suffering. Minneapolis: Augsburg. 1986. 151.

[5]Hans Schwarz. Evil: A Historical and Theological Perspective. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 1995. 103.

[6] (See footnote 11.)

[7] Job 3:23

[8] Job 5:11,15b

[9] Job 22:4-5

[10] This is the only meaning for suffering offered by the free-will defense, that those who suffer do so necessarily due to their sin or the sin of others. Marilyn McCord Adams. Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God. Ithica: Cornell Univ Press. 1999. 34.

[11] Fyall, 20.

[12]Job 41:4,6

[13] Bartholomew, 145.

[14] Job 38:15

h1

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.

h1

Opposition Overcome…

June 2, 2012

Part 6: Opposition Overcome

In the last post of this series, we will examine the similarities present in the three texts we have discussed previously in 2 Samuel 15, Isaiah 14 and the Judas narrative.

There is a consistent picture in Scripture of our Savior King: from the Seed of the woman which will crush the serpent, to the blessing of nations in Abraham, the anointed one, and suffering servant. With this consistent glimmer of light has come a shadow of opposition, equally determined, equally consistent, but ultimately futile. As we review the three texts we see in three different time periods, three representations of God’s anointed, three forms of opposition, but one consistent outcome. The figure below will illustrate visually the similarities:

20120810-113051.jpg

These texts speak to their periods and they serve to interpret and add layers of meaning on each other. King David serves as a type for the Messiah King Jesus. Absalom serves as a type for Judas. That Satan is explicitly or implicitly present in the narratives helps to locate both narratives in the larger cosmic theater of God’s glory where Satan seeks to oppose God. As the serpent will be crushed, and Satan will be cast down, so too will all those who seek to oppose God’s glory through His anointed. This hope is not lost on David as he writes in Psalm 3:

O LORD, how many are my foes!

Many are rising against me;

many are saying of my soul,

there is no salvation for him in God. Selah

But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,

my glory, and the lifter of my head.

(Psalm 3:1-3 ESV)

;

David records these would while being pursued by Absalom. Even in this dire condition, in an environment rife with uncertainty, David’s hope is in the Yahweh. He knows the fate that awaits the wicked, that God will “strike all my enemies on the cheek, and shatter the teeth of the wicked.” (Ps. 3:7) The heads of the wicked will be crushed for “salvation belongs to the Yahweh.” Those who make it their chief end to oppose God, are made an end in their opposition.

“A good story requires a beginning, a middle and an ending, a narrative whole. A well constructed plot, therefore, must neither begin nor end at haphazard, but conform to these principles.”[1] A clear beginning and a clear end serve to clarify the overall meaning of a text.[2] Here we see in these texts scattered across the overall narrative of scripture a picture of both God’s anointed and His evil opposition. Both strains of the narrative share beginnings, means of operations, and chief ends. The chief end of God’s anointed is glory in salvation through judgment[3]. The chief end of evil is to oppose God and mar His creation.[4] The anointed end in glory, those in opposition end in head crushing defeat and obscurity. From the beginning, God has made clear that such opposing efforts are bound to bring about death and distance from glory. God overcomes the narrative of pride, deceit, self-exaltation, murder and opposition with His raw creation-wielding power. He gives us a humble suffering servant, who is the way, the truth, God-exalting, life -giver, and crushes the head of the opposition. Through God’s command of the narrative, in both prediction and practice, we gain hope in the face of opposition. Even if thousands set opposition around us, we will not be afraid, for Yahweh sustains and He is our Salvation.[5]


[1] Aristotle from his Poetics quoted in Stephen G. Dempster. Dominion and Dynasty: A Theology of the Hebrew Bible Downers Grove: IVP Apollos. 2003. 45.

[2] Dempster, 45

[3] “God’s ultimate purpose is the main concern of the biblical authors, even when they are describing subordinate ends on the way to the chief end.” James Hamilton God’s Glory in Salvation Through Judgment: A Biblical Theology. Wheaton: Crossway. 2010 560.

[4] We might think of God’s prophecy concerning the serpent, that the seed of the serpent would pursue the seed of the woman, consistently bruising his heel; attempting to mar God’s creation and slow His purpose. Gen 3:15

[5] Psalm 3:5-6

h1

Leave Alone, well enough…

May 30, 2012

“But I don’t feel alone”, you might say, “I have a great family, many friends, I love my church and I never really feel isolated.” First off, praise God in His mercy He has allowed you to enjoy what few in this world have for any long period of time. There are three VERY important things to remember if you find yourself in a period of emotional relational satisfaction.

First, give God the glory everyday for the blessings you have received, rightly ascribe glory to Him in your situation. The fact that you feel satisfied relationally is not due to the fact that you’re so stinkin cute, or that you’re the nicest person on the planet. The fact that you experience the blessing of good relationships is because God has so blessed you, do not add to this blessing the sin of pride by trying to take the credit for what you enjoy.

Second, Be a comfort to others who are less fortunate, there are two ways to comfort:

-One, take care of those who have, through circumstances or situations, lost relationships and now are experiencing isolation and loneliness. Being part of a community, ie the church, or your family, comes with responsibilities. Both Paul and James admonish those in the church to look after widows and orphans, those who are truly without anyone to rely upon. This can occur by inviting a widow in your neighborhood over for dinner, taking the time to have conversations. This might even mean adopting an orphan who has no one to call father or mother.

-Two. Be sensitive to those around you who may be less secure in their relationships and may not be as satisfied. This is akin to the weaker brother/stronger brother discussion in Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8:13, we do not flaunt our freedom in the face of others, we don’t lord over others, rather we are sensitive to the fact that we may have those among us who need prayer and care.

Third, Be on your guard. Loneliness is not something that we leave in the dirt behind us when we reach some plateau of relational perfection. Many things can suddenly afflict us with a sense of isolation and a feeling of loneliness. Outside factors can contribute to sudden isolation: deaths, being fired, being dumped, being betrayed, business travel. Inner factors can also lead to the lonely experience: sin against God, harboring bitterness and resentment, fatigue, illness, and anger can all make us feel isolated from God and others. The Bible calls us to be sober-minded and prepared for action. In times of plenty we take in a harvest and store up provision for times of famine. Build your life around the Word of God and take comfort from the promises contained therein, commit them to memory for there will come a time when you will need to call to mind the promises of God. Those who meditate on the Word of the Lord day and night will be like trees planted by streams of waters, able to weather any draught. (Psalm 1)

Continually live in Christ, striving to enjoy the peace of God that passes all understanding, His peace will guard your hearts and minds. (Phil 4:7) Remember to put away all matters of deceit and strife, anything that puts difficulty between yourself and others, so that you might continue to enjoy the body of Christ, being of one mind with others, having among yourselves the mind of Christ. (Phil 2:5-11)

h1

Alone No More: His Provision for Us…

May 30, 2012

Fighting loneliness.

Loneliness grows out of isolation, whether that isolation is real or just perceived.  Ultimately our human relationships are greatly affected by and governed by the state of our relationship with God.  It is the goal of the enemy, since the beginning, to separate us from God and from each other.  From the moment Eve sinned and Adam ate the fruit,  they hid from one another and from God.  They covered themselves with leaves and hid behind bushes.  Prior to sin all existed in peace with one another without shame, living in harmony with God.  Post sin, we hid in shame from each other, and hid in fear from God.  God, being gracious and abundant in steadfast love, gave us the law, and the prophets pointing to the ultimate reconciliation to come through the gift of His Son.

God does not want you to be alone, God does not want you to FEEL alone, He has literally moved heaven and earth to reconciled you with Him for His glory.

He has given us His Son so that we are not isolated from Him.

He has given us His Spirit, so that we might feel His presence internally forever.

He has given us His church, brothers and sisters in Christ, so that we might always have a family no matter where we are, so that we might feel His presence externally forever.

He has given us His word as a record of His power and promises to sustain us in down times, so that we might reflect on His promise to Never leave us, nor forsake us, to be with us always even to the end of the age; these promises insure that we might intellectually experience His truth forever.

All of this is done that we might humble ourselves underneath this truth, casting our anxieties upon Him because He cares for us. (1 Peter 5:6-7)

Consider that the next time you feel alone, the omnipresent God of the Universe, knows you, Loves you, calls to you, and CARES for you.

Here are eight  Biblically prescribed solutions for loneliness

(From: http://www.christinyou.net/pages/loneliness.html)

1. Regeneration, reconciliation with God. Col. 1:21,22

2. Confess known sins – I Jn. 1:9

3. Accept God’s forgiveness – Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:14

4. Forgive others – Eph. 4:32

5. Recognize and affirm the presence of God in Christ – Josh. 1:9; Ps. 23; Isa.                         41:10; 43:2; Matt. 28:20; Jn. 16:32; Heb. 13:5

6. Accept the work of the Comforter, the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit of Christ –                           Jn. 14:16,26; 15:26; 16:7

7. Participate in the fellowship and community of the Body of Christ, the Church –                         Heb. 10:25

8. Participate in the functional ministry of the Body of Christ in using your spiritual                         gifts – Rom. 12:4-6; I Cor. 12

h1

Only the Lonely: Our Need, His Provision…

May 29, 2012

“Loneliness was the first thing that God’s eye named not good.” – John Milton

(Photo Credit: The National Geographic)

From the very beginning of time, recorded in scripture, we see that mankind was created to reflect the image of God.  Fundamental to making that image complete was the creation of relationships.  “Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR own likeness…” (Gen 1:26)  God is a relational being, a Triune God who is three persons in one being, each one relating to each other in perfect harmony.  Mankind reflects this relational reality.  God look out upon His good creation and behold it was all good.  The earth beneath; the sky above; the birds in the skies; the fish in the seas; all of it was very good.  And yet one thing in the litany of divine creation was not good.  After creating man from the dust of the earth and tasking him with the dominion of earth, it was determined that it was “not good” for man to be alone.

Now it is important to note that the Bible does not record that man was lonely.  There is no sign that Adam wandered about God’s good creation bemoaning his status.  Eden represented perfect harmony between man and creation, God and man. It was God who looked upon the scene and determined that man needed suitable help.  So man and woman were created in the image of God to exercise dominion and aid each other in the multiplication of the image of God across creation.

We were created to be together.  Men and women, in marriage.  Parents and children in families.  Brothers and sisters in harmony.  Individuals in communities, clans, cities, nations.  This tendency to group is as evident in natural general revelation as sunshine and seasons.  Every corner of the globe reflects man’s tendency and propensity to gather into groups, multiply and exercise dominion over their space.  This is seen in marriage, which is by far the most universal human cultural institution.  All of this was greatly effected by the Fall.  The Fall radically reoriented all human relationships. As we see in Genesis 3, the very act of procreating became marked by pain, and all relationships fell victim to enmity and strife.  Brother’s would kill brothers, Husbands would rule over wives, wives would undermine their husbands.  The contention would spread out into cities and towns and entire nations through wars and feuds.  But from the outset, a seed was planted and promised, One who would crush the head evil and shatter the scepters of the wicked.  One who would draw all nations to Himself and break down barriers of political and relational strife.  Upon the cross, there was such a man.

We need each other because we were created to be in relationships, reflecting the image of the triune relational God.  Where sin marred this reality of our relationships, the gospel of God’s grace literally breathed new life into the dry bones of our communities.  The Gospel is power.  Power to overcome the greatest strife, power to dissolve the most intractable debates, and power to sooth the deepest hurt.  God sent His son to that we might have life, abundant life, together in a body called the church.

Christ, himself reflected this, in that He did not act alone.  Supernaturally He was attended by the Father, empowered by the Holy Spirit, doing nothing apart from their will or ability.  Naturally, He formed a community, calling disciples and tending to His family.  He equipped not individuals, but groups.  His great commission was not given to any one man, but to the whole body of those who called upon Him as Lord. Through Jesus all of our constructed barriers are removed and our relationships are restored; so that, whether we are rich or poor, Jew or Gentile, Servant or master, we are all one in Christ Jesus.  We have now a foretaste of what is to come, when we will exist peacefully together in relationships living solely for the glory of God.

So it is not good for you to be alone.  If you are alone in spirit, know that there is One who stands ready to rush in and provide eternal comfort to your forlorn soul, if only you would call upon Him, confessing with your mouth and believing in your heart that Jesus is Lord.  If you know God but are alone relationally, then seek out the other members in the body of which you are apart, the church.  For they exist, as your brothers and sisters, to share your burdens as well as your joys; to give you a foretaste of Godly community to come.d