Reformed Commentary on Job: Chapter 27

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In the most difficult understand chapter in the Book of Job, it appears that Job is giving a theoretical response to an argument Zophar never gives.

Job gives us some interesting insight into what it means for the righteous to inherit the wealth of the wicked.

Chapter 27 (For Previous Chapter Click Here)

The biggest clue that this chapter is in effect a response to Zophar is that Job 27:13 (“This is the portion of a wicked man from God”) responds to Job 20:29 where Zophar said, “This is the wicked man’s portion from God.” Further, Job 21:27 (“Behold, I know your thoughts…”) indicates that Job is anticipating the arguments of his friends. So, a chapter where Job responds to Zophar before Zophar even speaks should not surprise us.

Job complains in the previous chapter, “How faint a word we hear of Him” (Job 26:14)! Knowing of God’s greatness, but not privy to His “secret counsel” (Job 15:8), Job in this chapter seeks to defend himself against a possible attack by Zophar: God is right, because the wicked all ultimately meet their fate. This is contrary to Job’s point in Job 26:14 (which might as well be the first verse of chapter 27.) In light of there being no answer from God, we are offered no explanation why the just suffer on Earth and the wicked can go about their lives in peace and prosperity.

Zophar already argued that the wicked ultimately meet their fate in chapter 20, with Job’s response to it in chapter 21. The thrust of Job’s argument there was that the wicked often don’t suffer until their dying day. He also touches on some of the same topics we will see in chapter 27, such as the fate of their children and God’s intentionality in cutting the wicked off (which apparently is not quick enough in Job’s opinion).

Zophar’s defense of God’s justice, that God “gets even” with the wicked on their dying day, is unsatisfying to Job, much like Bildad’s and Eliphaz’s “absolutely all men deserve suffering” line of reasoning was. So, Job again makes clear that he understands that God does put an end to the wicked, but often not by cutting short their lifetimes. This implies that a just god would act sooner in punishing wickedness than the real God who we often faintly hear a word from.

Job’s argumentation here shows his understanding of where his friends are coming from, while at the same time disproving their view that God’s retribution here on Earth corresponds with how righteous a man is. Being that death is the great equalizer, Job is essentially substantiating what he had stated previously: “He destroys the guiltless and the wicked” (Job 9:22). If this is the case, then Job’s suffering cannot be equated as just retribution for him committing some grievous sin.

It is as if Job is saying that God is indeed greater than us, beyond our imagination (Chapter 26), yet there is an obvious flaw in His justice. It would be simple enough just to cut down the wicked the moment they deserve it, or preempt them entirely.

However, God is apparently not satisfied in preempting evil and implicitly, as Job does not address the matter in Chapter 27, has no problem with the righteous suffering either. The old yarn, “Why do bad things happen to good people” makes it apparent that Job is not alone in this idea.

In short, “what comes around goes around eventually to their kids or after they die” is not compelling enough to Job.

Job begins his argument by essentially accusing God of being unfair: “As God lives, who has taken away my right and the Almighty, who has embittered my soul” (Job 27:2). We have seen this before. He previously has made clear the he is right, which means implicitly God is wrong: “Though I am righteous, my mouth will condemn me, though I am guiltless, He will declare me guilty” (Job 9:20). Further, he credits no other reason because He is aware of God’s sovereignty and His endless dominion: “If it is not He, then who is it” (Job 9:24)?

Job then asserts that “[m]y lips certainly will not speak unjustly,” which by this he means “nor will my tongue mutter deceit” (Job 27:4). In effect, he is simply saying he speaks rightly about God because he speaks the truth, instead of lying. He accuses his friends specifically of “speak[ing] what is unjust for God and…what is deceitful for Him” (Job 13:7). Job asserts that God will examine the falsehood in what they say, even though they “show partiality for Him” (Job 13:8), the result being that “He will surely reprove you” (Job 13:10).

Job thinks he is not only right in what he says, but he also refuses to call himself wicked. “I hold fast my righteousness and will not let it go. My heart does not reproach any of my days” (Job 27:6). Being that walking with God is done by the Holy Spirit, Job refuses to call what is spiritual wicked and blaspheme the work the Spirit has done through him as a believer. He is confident that God knows his walk has been faithful:

But He knows the way I take;

When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

My foot has held fast to His path;

I have kept His way and not turned aside.

I have not departed from the command of His lips;

I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food (Job 23:10-12).

Then in frustration, Job curses his friends for calling him wicked and wishes that they experience the curses they think rightfully belong to him (Job 27:7). His frustration seems to be caused by more than simply taking what his friends said to him “too personally.” Rather, Job has already refuted his friends’ arguments. He has already addressed that the wicked are punished by death in chapter 9.Further,  Job previously countered the thrust of Bildad’s arguments in chapter 25 in chapter 12. So, perhaps his frustration is caused by his exasperation over repeating his arguments over and over.

Finally, probably due to his frustration, Job preempts Zophar by making his argument for him. He concedes to nothing that he did not already admit to in chapter 9. Further, Job does not lie like his friends. The friends assert that all men are guilty and suffer in consequence, yet somehow if Job repents he won’t. They argue that the wicked are punished by God in this life, though in reality not all wicked are punished and some wait until they die. It is the latter inconsistency that Job is confronting.

Job begins by asking, “What is the hope of the godless when he is cut off,

when God requires his life” (Job 27:8)? We see that the wicked have no hope in the next life (Job 27:9). It is worth noting that the wicked will not “delight in the Almighty” and “call on God at all times” (Job 27:10), which means that the opposite is true. The righteous will delight in the Almighty, calling on His name, for eternity in heaven. Heaven revolves around God, not around man’s pleasures.

After briefly pointing out to his friends that what he speaks is not twisted to misportray God and observably true, unlike their arguments (Job 27:11-12), Job then addresses Zophar’s possible points in explicitly:

They may profit and have many children, but some of the children suffer, possibly as the result of vengeance (Job 27:14). Their other children are not immune to disease (Job 27:15). The rich’s trust in their wealth proves to be as fragile as a spider’s web (Job 27:18, addressing Zophar in Job 8:14) as it does not save them from death, the great equalizer (Job 27:19). In the afterlife “terrors overtake him like a flood” (Job 27:20) and his soul is tossed about in the primordial waters of chaos and darkness of Sheol, an observation Matthew Henry concurs with (Job 27:21-22, ironically similar to the second circle of hell for lust in Dante’s Inferno, Canto 5). Lastly, men on Earth take pleasure that the wicked man is no more (Job 27:23), which is a common emotion when evil men are no more such as Hitler or Osama Bin Laden.

Job’s recounting of these things lacks just one comment that would make it easier to understand for modern readers: “And so what?” If Job would have said this to end his speech, it would be easier to understand what he was getting at: “Sure, God punishes the wicked in the next life, and some of their children suffer as a result of their parents wickedness, but why does God let them get away with it so long? He is surely not powerless to stop it!”

Perhaps, there is one line which appears inconsistent with the above attitude. It is our suspicion that liberal critical theologians seize upon it to argue that this argument never originally left Job’s lips and level the charge that an editor purposely added to the section. The line reads as follows: “Though he piles up silver like dust and prepares garments as plentiful as the clay, he may prepare it, but the just will wear it and the innocent will divide the silver” (Job 27:16-17).

Upon first glance, the preceding words could have just as easily left any of the friends’ mouths. It sounds an awful lot like the wicked getting their “just deserts” and the righteous getting theirs. Is this what Job is saying?

No. This is why it is so important to read verses 19 to 22 as about the afterlife and view verse 18 as a set up for how tenuous life is. If this be the case, then we can consistently read verses 16 through 22 about eschatology and the afterlife in general. Job, just as in chapter 26, is now stupefying his friends with his superior knowledge of the practically unknowable–things we ourselves only know by divine revelation because we have similar testimonies elsewhere in the Scripture.

How do we know that the riches gathered up by the wicked are inherited by the just is about the afterlife? First, we know that their wealth does not come with them when they die: “Woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full” (Luke 6:24). The comfort in their riches is received in full only in this life.

What happens to their wealth then? It is our opinion that it is forfeited by the wicked when they die and inherited by the righteous: “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt 5:5). The world is in the hands of the wicked for a time, so when God does away with them and Satan at the last day, the righteous inherit the world and even greater riches in the New Jerusalem.

When the wicked rich forfeit their wealth and stand before God in judgement, they will be shamed. God will figuratively lead them into the New Jerusalem as vanquished enemies in procession, just as if they were POWs from a war of conquest. When they reach the city (again, this is figurative) they will serve the just as slaves:

[T]he ships of Tarshish will come first,

To bring your sons from afar,

Their silver and their gold with them…

Foreigners will build up your walls,

And their kings will minister to you

For in My wrath I struck you,

And in My favor I have had compassion on you.

Your gates will be open continually;

They will not be closed day or night,

So that men may bring to you the wealth of the nations,

With their kings led in procession.

For the nation and the kingdom which will not serve you will perish,

And the nations will be utterly ruined (Is 60:9-12).

 

Strangers will stand and pasture your flocks,

And foreigners will be your farmers and your vinedressers.

But you will be called the priests of the Lord;

You will be spoken of as ministers of our God.

You will eat the wealth of nations,

And in their riches you will boast (Is 61:5-6. See also Ps 68:29-31 where this is described, perhaps with a reference to demonic forces).

It is our contention that in the above, the silver and gold that God’s people bring from as far away as Tarshish is “the wealth of the nations.” What Isaiah is describing is God’s people inheriting the wealth of the nations, as well as their kings as slaves, and bringing them back to the New Jerusalem as booty. They are not bringing back wealth they made on their own.

What proof do we have of this contention? We have a picture of it in the Book of Exodus:

Now the sons of Israel had done according to the word of Moses, for they had requested from the Egyptians articles of silver and articles of gold, and clothing; and the Lord had given the people favor in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they let them have their request. Thus they plundered the Egyptians (Ex 12:35-36).

It is worth noting that Job said that the just will inherit the wicked’s clothing and silver. We should not view it as a coincidence that the same exact thing happened to the Egyptians.

Further, we should not view the Egyptians “finding favor” with Israel as a sign that they felt bad for them and helped them out. Rather, God struck them with fear of the curses he had just performed against them and compelled them to accede to being “plundered.”

What appears to be occurring in Exodus is a foreshadowing of the “forced confession” of all of creation when Christ returns:

I have sworn by Myself,

The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness

And will not turn back,

That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.

They will say of Me, ‘Only in the Lord are righteousness and strength.’

Men will come to Him,

And all who were angry at Him will be put to shame.

In the Lord all the offspring of Israel

Will be justified and will glory (Is 45:23-25; see also Ps 64:7-9).

Obviously, not every one who bows the knee is saved, otherwise they would not be angry and put to shame. They are forced into submission. This act is righteous because the very act of a word going forth from God’s mouth is righteous. He “will not turn back,” for He is not a man that changes His mind (Num 23:19). Further, He swears by His own name, as there is nothing higher He can swear by.

As a side note, it is important to note that “only in the Lord” is “righteousness,” and it is because of this it is “in the Lord” we are “justified.” Union with Christ, where he takes our sin and we are credited His righteousness so that God accounts us as Christ, is the only way we can be right before God. Man born of a woman cannot be just, but man born of the Spirit, in union with Christ, is “hidden with Christ in God” (Col 3:3) and therefore perfectly righteous so that he will be “justified.”

Back to the matter at hand, the prince of this world and his nation, the Earth, with its corruption will perish and will be in the lake of fire for eternity. Clearly, it is not the sons of Israel who bring their own wealth, but rather they bring the plunder of the nations back to Israel. It once belonged to those who have now been defeated and it is they that are being brought back in procession from far and wide. However, none of this will occur before they are forced to bow the knee.

We can see this same idea in a couple proverbs and another Scripture, seconding the idea that the righteous inherit the wealth of the wicked.

A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children and the wealth of the sinner is stored up for the righteous (Prov 13:22).

He who increases his wealth by interest and usury gathers it for him who is gracious to the poor (Prov 28:8).

[T]o the sinner He has given the task of gathering and collecting so that he may give to one who is good in God’s sight (Ecc 2:26).

What can we discern from the preceding Scriptures? For one, the simplistic explanation that evil men purposely gather up wealth for the righteous is clearly not what is intended.

We can see this is Prov 13:22. A good man purposely saves up for not only his children, but his children’s children. Perhaps with this in mind, Aquinas and Caryl view the silver and garments in Job 27:17 as wealth gathered up for their children, who just so happen to be righteous.

There are problems with using this interpretation in the book of Job. First, we are talking about wicked parents, so they are not purposely saving for righteous children. Second, it is presumptuous to think that the children here are righteous to begin with. Lastly, internal evidence within the passage seems to dissuade us from the notion. The wicked man’s children in Job’s argument have already dealt with in verses 14 and 15. In verse 14 the wicked’s children are so poor they are in want of bread. In the next verse, they are dead. In neither of the verses is there any indication that the children are righteous. Rather, verses 14 and 15 seem to imply the wicked man’s children are completely out of view.

The righteous man, according to Prov 13:22, gathers up wealth for his own children. Is the spirit of the proverb that the wicked man also stores up wealth for his children? Clearly not! The proverb is saying that the righteous man leaves a legacy while the wicked man does not, but rather his legacy goes to the righteous. Here, the subject matter appears to be eschatological, referring to the same thing that Isaiah talked about.

Likewise, the dishonest banker in Prov 28:8 is clearly not intentionally defrauding the poor so he can give the money to the righteous, who are kind to the poor. The choice of wording is key. The dishonest banker is not simply thwarted. If this be the case, he who defrauds the poor ends up giving his wealth to the poor. However, this is not what the proverb is saying. The proverb says that the one who is gracious to the poor inherits the wealth, not necessarily the poor themselves. It is the righteous man that is in view.

Lastly, the “sinner” in Ecc 2:26. Do we need to say more? He was not gathering to give to the “one” who was good in God’s sight. However, regardless of his evil, God takes man’s evil and intends it for good and recompenses the just (Gen 50:20).

It is the plunder of the righteous taken from the hands of the wicked that Job speaks of when he says, “Though he piles up silver like dust and prepares garments as plentiful as the clay, he may prepare it, but the just will wear it and the innocent will divide the silver.” We have shown that the wicked’s wealth gets left behind when they are vanquished by God. Then, when the righteous inherit the world, they get the “wealth with it.

What exactly is the “wealth?” We have one speculation. Being that the whole topic refers to eschatology, the wealth is spiritual and not material.

What is spiritual about wealth in the sense that it can be taken at the expense of wicked men? The following may be a stretch, but consider how the Scripture speaks of how God “endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” in order “to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory” (Rom 9:22-23).

Now, connecting the inheriting of the wicked’s wealth and the reprobation of sinners may be overly tenuous. However, there is in a real sense a tangible benefit to the righteous that the wicked even exists. It makes known to them the riches of His glory. This is a wealth obviously gained at the expense of the wicked and it is only finally appreciated when God judges the wicked in His righteousness. In fact, the riches of God’s glory, because they pertain to God, far excell any material riches that the wicked may presently forfeit to the righteous in the present life.

If we interpret the wealth of the wicked being inherited by the righteous in its proper eschatological context, Job’s argument against Zophar is made even clearer: Sure, the wicked don’t keep their wealth for eternity, nor do their children. In fact, even in the afterlife they will pay the full penalty and the righteous will be recompensed for their good works. However, why does God not act sooner against the wicked? And, why in this life does God recompense me evil for good?”

In response, Zophar is silent. Silencing his critics, Job moves on to his case against God, detailing his own righteousness so that God’s crushing of him would appear to us all the more senseless.

If Head Coverings Are Not a Sacrament or an Ordinance, Are They Optional?

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I was told more than once that head covering regulations given in 1 Corinthians 11 are not binding upon the conscience of the Christian, because it is not a sacrament. Of course, such an argument can be used to say that almost every admonition in the New Testament does not have to be followed. A short list of these would include admonishments not to be sexually immoral, to submit to your husband, to love your wife as Christ loved the Church, women cannot teach men in church, to abstain from false ascetic practices, and etcetera.

For example, avoiding sexual immorality or false asceticism are for all time ideals for the Christian. They do not take a backseat simply because they are not sacraments ordained by Jesus Christ, and in fact they would be expected from Christians. Because of this, there has to be a more compelling reason than “it is not a sacrament” to ignore the Biblical admonishment.

I debated this topic with an Anglican and delve deeper into the topic in the following:

It’s not an obligatory practice, but you can do it if you want. That’s all you have to keep in mind.

Sure. I also agree that the Lord’s Supper and Baptism are likewise important practices, but not necessary for salvation either. I always recommend holding firmly to the traditions, just as Paul delivered them to us.

Except that the sacraments are not in the same category as OT traditions. They are NOT, in fact, traditions. They were instituted by Christ himself and are channels of Grace and Forgiveness.

I am a reformed baptist so I do not view the sacraments as an exceptional avenue of grace. I see them as rites that are done as a matter of obedience.

The headcovering thing was not that–and we also are freed from the observance of it…

Christ fulfilled the OT Law. Headcoverings has nothing to do with the OT Law so there is no fulfillment of it in Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. Hence, choosing whether or not to wear a headcovering it is not a matter of Christian freedom any more than it is a matter of Christian freedom to ignore the Biblical injunction that women must not hold the office of elder.

…[Christians have freedom] not from those sacraments or ordinances that were instituted by Christ himself. That‘s how Christianity has looked at the matter since early times.

Again it begs the question, is an admonition said by Paul or Peter (i.e. only men can be elders in a church, homosexuality is a sin, women are to dress in a humble fashion, etc.) somehow less binding on the conscience of the Christian? This is a serious question.

As for how Christians have seen headcoverings since early times, you will find that the vast preponderance have found it an absolutely essential, and not optional, practice. Even Reformation writers which would have otherwise viewed the admonition as cultural, still did not overturn its use. So, you have until very recent times that headcoverings was treated as a requirement. So great a crowd of witnesses cannot be simply ignored.

Paul would have never commended the Corinthians for holding firmly to the traditions he has passed down to them if holding firmly to them was strictly optional and simply a matter of Christian freedom.

Understood. But the rest of the point remains the same, and it’s still important to realize that a mere tradition differs from an ordinance (if you prefer that term) that Christ himself instituted, commanded, personally showed to us by his own example, and the church has always considered essential.

The tradition cannot simply be brushed aside lightly if it has to do with church polity and was considering binding on all the churches of God. Paul, by the Holy Spirit, wrote, “I do not permit a woman to exercise authority over a man” or about head coverings “if anyone wishes to be contentious, we have no other practice nor do the churches of God…”

Paul could have not put it any clearer that the tradition was not optional.

we have the NT instructing us that we are no longer obligated in the matter of days and meats, etc, …and that’s what this headcovering issue is about.

This is not true. People have framed it that way, but it is not the way Paul has approached the matter. It is very telling that the issue of headcoverings is part of the discussion on the Lord’s Supper, because it was considered in such high importance. Paul did not take pains to explain how the tradition is somehow less important than the sacrament, like many would do today. Instead, his clear expectatin is that the practice would be kept just as the Lord’s Supper is.

Day, meats, and etcetera are all references to Jewish Law. We are dead to the Law. However, we are not dead to living according to Spirit, which there is no Law against. Obviously, Paul felt that men not covering their heads in worship was a matter of living according to the Spirit, just as sexual propriety is. Just because sexual propriety is not a sacrament, it does not mean Christians are free to fornicate.

Yes, some of those traditions have survived until recent times–and I’ve already said several times that this one has good symbolism–but when it comes to “must do,” the churches that have discontinued ENFORCING the practice (none has taken a stand against covering one’s head) are obviously saying that they do not consider the tradition to be immutable.

Paul says women “ought” (opheilei) to have a covering on their heads (1 Cor 11:10). Peter speaks that adornment “must not” (estO ouch) be external. So, one can legitimately argue that the Biblical language compelling us to folow headcovering regulations is deliberately more “loosey goosey.”

However, it is not helpful to argue about the verbiage on this one point. Why? Because headcovering is something we ought to do so much, that the entire ancient church did it and the angels actually care that we do it.

In light of the preceding, I think this argument is framed entirely incorrectly. The question is not whether women should cover their heads and men shouldn’t. They most definitely ought to. The question is what exceptions are legitimate. Is culture in of itself a legitimate exception? Is arctic weather, where you can freeze without a covering on one’s head, legitimate? This is what the discussion should be. Not, “Jesus never talked about it and I only listen to the red letters, and that’s when it fits my preconceived notions” sort of thing.

If we frame the question this way, we will find that peoples objections to headcoveirng regulations almost entirely do not spring up from Godly motives, but rather personal preference.

Did Augustine Teach the Mass was Literally a Sacrifice? No.

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Did Augustine teach the modern Catholic doctrine of Transubstantiation?

A Roman Catholic writer wrote in criticism of Protestants wrote:

Calvinists reject every single one of these beliefs of Augustine.  If anyone was to preach all these beliefs in a Protestant church, he would immediately be branded an arch heretic–yet, Protestants quote Augustine and consider him a hero.  A heretic is a hero?  At one of his ministry conferences, Dr. Sproul made the statement that (paraphrased), “Anyone who believes in Purgatory knows nothing of the Gospel.”  The implications of Dr. Sproul’s extreme statement is that St. Augustine was not even a Christian.  It seems somewhat hypocritical and logically contradictory to me for people like Dr. Sproul to count Augustine as “one of their own”, yet in other places to make statements that would exclude him from even being a Christian.  It is time for Calvinists to be honest and admit that they are really not Augustinian, but that they follow Calvin alone.

We already covered elsewhere that Augustine voiced possible doubts about purgatory (contrary what is claimed above). So, are we to trust his claim that Augustine taught that the mass was literally a sacrifice? He quotes the following:

In the sacrament he is immolated for the people not only on every Easter Solemnity but on every day; and a man would not be lying if, when asked, he were to reply that Christ is being immolated. For if sacraments had not a likeness to those things of which they are sacraments, they would not be sacraments at all; and they generally take the names of those same things by reason of this likeness (Letters 98:9 [A.D. 412]).

However, when we read the section in its full context, this is what Augustine really says:

In like manner, on Easter Sunday, we say, This day the Lord rose from the dead, although so many years have passed since His resurrection. But no one is so foolish as to accuse us of falsehood when we use these phrases, for this reason, that we give such names to these days on the ground of a likeness between them and the days on which the events referred to actually transpired, the day being called the day of that event, although it is not the very day on which the event took place, but one corresponding to it by the revolution of the same time of the year, and the event itself being said to take place on that day, because, although it really took place long before, it is on that day sacramentally celebrated. Was not Christ once for all offered up in His own person as a sacrifice? And yet, is He not likewise offered up in the sacrament as a sacrifice, not only in the special solemnities of Easter, but also daily among our congregations; so that the man who, being questioned, answers that He is offered as a sacrifice in that ordinance, declares what is strictly true? (Letters 98:9).

The chapter continues to discuss the matter of baptismal regeneration, which is beyond our purposes, here. However, the clear thrust of what Augustine was getting at is that the sacrament on some level is the flesh and blood of Christ that was sacrificed on the cross, but in his words, “although it really” is not the same exact body and blood on the cross sacrificed hundreds of years before that is now ascended into heaven.

As summed up by R.C. Sproul:

John Calvin insisted, as did the Anglicans, on the true presence of Christ, but he also insisted that the presence of Christ is through His divine nature. His human nature is no longer present with us. It is in heaven at the right hand of God. We still are able to commune with the human nature of Christ by means of our communion with the divine nature, which does indeed remain united to the human nature. But that human nature remains localized in heaven.

Contrary to what the Catholic writer would have you believe, Calvin’s view is in line with Augustine’s (and thereby avoids Christological heresy in which “His human nature” would “be present at more than one place at the same time” which “would require the deification of His body, which the Reformers saw as a thinly veiled Monophysite heresy.”) Augustine makes a clear differentiation between the “once for all” sacrifice and that literally found in the Lord’s Supper, without reference to Aristotelian categories such as accidens and essence.

So, while a Christian may faithfully hold to the Real Presence of Christ in the elements, he is not compelled to believe the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching on the subject is historical, or even correct.

A Good Reason Not to Watch Exodus Gods and Kings…Malak

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I was getting all excited to see the new version of the Ten Commandments until I heard of the following at dinner:

The strangeness of Scott’s burning-bush sequence and his daring approach to representing the divine presence Moses encounters offer a possible point of entry on this issue. Unlike Charlton Heston’s Moses, who heard a disembodied voice (Heston’s own voice) at the burning bush, Bale’s Moses sees and hears a young boy — not a beatific boy speaking in dulcet tones, like a proper Christian angel, but a scowling boy with a curt manner and a temper.

Apparently, God in the movie is represented by an annoying little boy named “Malak.” I’m offended not as a Christian, but as a movie goer. I don’t want to watch movies about guys overthrowing tyrannical rulers because they are egged on to by some rambunctious kid. It’s totally lame.

I presume there will be a lot of push back from Christians about this disrespectful portrayal of God, whom we know to be inimitable and glorious beyond description. This will probably surprise all the non-believers in Hollywood who thought the success of the “Christian” book The Shack, which portrayed God as Aunt Jemima, meant that they would tolerate such a portrayal in the movie. Perhaps, when you actually visually depict the disrespectful depiction, the lame factor becomes so obvious that it is impossible to avoid.

Why didn’t they stick to the disembodied voice of God in most movies, or the mysterious God who doesn’t explicitly talk back like in Noah?

Shame on you Hollywood. You took a movie idea that could have had fun stuff like blowing up pyramids, and made it totally stupid. Maybe Ridley Scott and Christian Bale help compensate for that, but I guess I will have to find out when it’s in the Red Box.

Reformed Commentary on Job: Chapter 26

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Job in chapter 26 begins his response to Bildad as part of a defense that stretches the next few chapters.

Job in chapter 26 shows that he had very keen insight into God’s creative power, much greater than that of his friends.

Chapter 26 (For Previous Chapter Click Here, For Next Chapter Click Here)

Job’s response between chapters 26 to 31 can be very difficult to understand, because he essentially speaks rightly all the way through, yet for chapters 32 to 41 afterward he is sharply rebuked!

Critical liberal scholars attribute this to scribal error or intentional distortion of the original message of the book. According to J. Gerald Janzen, “It has become a commonplace view among critical scholars that the third cycle of the dialogues [Job’s response to Elihu’s and Bildad’s final responses] is badly disarranged, whether accidentally or as some scribe’s (or scribes’) ‘deliberate attempt to refute Job’s argument by confusing the issue’” (Interpretation: Job, p. 171).

First, we can discount this view because not only is there no manuscript evidence to support such a contention (it is made up entirely out of whole cloth). Second, it’s central presumption is that the Bible is not “unbreakable” in the way Jesus viewed it (John 10:35). Even conservative scholars such as Elmer B. Smick and Ronald Youngblood have slipped on this issue, asserting that the original author/editor of the work is inserting his own opinions in the 28th chapter and it is not Job himself talking.

We must reject such ideas as they prevent us from approaching the Scripture in an appropriate way. If these “confusing” words are indeed coming out of Job’s mouth as the book attests and if God intends His Scripture to be understandable and useful, we should be able to understand the message in these chapters.

Let’s keep in mind that not every word that Job speaks is true, so this opens up the possibility to say things that are obviously false or confusing. Keeping this in mind, it is most useful to judge what he says by its merits and not by any preconceived notions about a man we never met.

What is Job getting at in this chapter? To many observers He sounds an awful lot like Bildad in chapter 25. Henry has a suggestion: “He shows that Bildad’s discourse was foreign to the matter he was discoursing of—though very true and good, yet not to the purpose.” In other words, Job is concurring with Bildad, but reminding him that it is besides the point.

As we will see in later chapters, Job agrees with several aspects of what his friends were getting at: the wicked do eventually receive punishment, that seeking God is the greatest possible end, and personal integrity is important. However, Job has a much deeper understanding of these matters than his friends when it pertains to faith in God and it is at this point he immensely disagrees with his detractors. This is something we have covered many times in the last 25 chapters.

The meat of Job’s speeches reiterate what he does not understand from the beginning (and it requires God Himself to answer, Elihu merely addresses the issues in Job’s responses where he went overboard.) Job has lived righteously by God’s grace. He has a faithful heart. Why are people such as him, God’s people, seemingly abandoned in the face of suffering? How is this consistent with the correct idea that we have a God that truly cares about us?

With this in mind, we must read the next few chapters as Job concurring with his friends, telling them what he knows about being right with God, and then expressing confusion as to why those right with God by all appearances are abandoned by God when He is supposedly faithful. What we will find out is that unlike what Job thinks, God is not abandoning us when we suffer. Instead, suffering is part and parcel of God’s care for us and His creation.

Back to what is immediately at hand, Job’s response in this chapter addresses Bildad’s points in the preceding one. We know this because of Job’s initial response. Job makes clear that he finds Bildad’s comments asserting the total unworthiness of man as an unsatisfying explanation for why God can arbitrarily cause his suffering (Job 26:2).

Perhaps Bildad and Eliphaz were proud of their “insight” (Job 26:3) into the nature of man’s depravity. They appeared sure that in this doctrine came the ultimate defense of God in the face of the existence of evil. Yet, the rest of the chapter appears to be Job’s attempt to humble them with superior knowledge of God.

First, he makes light of their insight (Job 26:3). Afterward, he anticipates Eliphaz’s claim that their insight is of a revealed nature from God by dismissing the “spirit” from which it came from (Job 26:4).

Job then describes the majesty of God, likely to the best of his ability, in order to show how much greater God is than his friends can even imagine. The dead, who have come to see God in some way (perhaps in judgment), tremble “under the waters” (Job 26:5). We should remember that the “waters” are associated with Leviathan (who is invoked in Job 26:12-13). So, these trembling people are the damned, biding their time in Sheol before they are thrown into the lake of fire for eternity.

It is in this way that Sheol and “Abaddon” are “naked” before God in verse six. They tremble because they are powerless before Him. We know that Sheol, which is translated as “Hades” in the New Testament, is thrown into the lake of fire (Rev 20:14). Abaddon, translated into Greek as “Apollyon” is both a place (“the pit,” a euphemism for Hades/Sheol) and “the Destroyer” (i.e. the King of Terrors/the Satan). We believe that the latter interpretation works best, being that Job is speaking of two things rather than one. Sheol is mentioned first to differentiate it from Abaddon, which here is treated as a personification of Satan.

Beyond even what Job’s friends can contemplate, God is master over even death itself, which He will destroy. The King of Terrors is not a true king at all, as not even he operates outside of His scope. Here, Job is very close to really “getting it.” This is essentially the answer to his suffering in the book. However, Job only knows the shadows of the truth here and does not fully understand it, so he continues to discuss other aspects of God’s greatness instead of settling there.

For example, Job appears to have some understanding of Earth’s place in the cosmos. He observes that above the Earth is “empty space” and it is “suspended over nothing” flying out there in outer space (Job 26:7). Expressing knowledge of this is not so exciting in the 21st century, but it would have been Earth shattering nearly 4,000 years ago. Unless one lived near the coast and observed boats coming up over the horizon, he would probably presume the Earth was flat and that the heavens were not a vast space, but rather a blanket or some sort of covering over the Earth. In light of this, it is apparent to us that Job is marveling his friends with astronomical knowledge that would have blown their minds.

Likewise, we should interpret Job’s other observations of the created order as profound reflections of God’s greatness. For one, clouds full of rain are suspended in mid-air (Job 26:8). This is a feat that is made possible by extremely complicated physical laws that are consistent and orderly, not chaotic and arbitrary. They obviously reflect God’s “invisible qualities” (Rom 1:20).

These same clouds that God sustains can obscure the moon (Job 26:10). This does not sound very amazing, but people at this time worshipped the moon, thinking of it as a god. Being that Job’s friends are gentiles, as is Job, they may merely be Henotheists. This means that the friends may worship the God, but also other gods as well. However, Job is a faithful man and knows there is only one true God. The moon is easily within His grasp where He can obscure it when He pleases.

Job’s focus, beginning with the Earth, then raising up to the clouds, finally ascends to Heaven.

He has inscribed a circle on the surface of the waters

At the boundary of light and darkness.

The pillars of heaven tremble

And are amazed at His rebuke.

He quieted the sea with His power,

And by His understanding He shattered Rahab.

By His breath the heavens are cleared;

His hand has pierced the fleeing serpent (Job 26:10-13).

The overall point of this passage is that God has mastery over the angelic beings and the heavenly realm. The idea conveyed in verse 10 is that God sets a limit for the primordial chaos, giving order to all of existence. As we have discussed earlier in chapter three, this is an example of God’s mastery over Leviathan (Job 26:12-13). Apparently, Job is aware that the “pillars of heaven tremble and are amazed at His rebuke” (Job 26:11).

This is a keen insight into a time before creation where God defeated his angelic opposition and as a result has made the rest of the angels awestruck. It is worth noting that Aquinas concurs with interpreting the “pillars” as angels, and this interpretation makes sense given the fact that the pillars are equated with the sea in verse 12. This makes the mention of Rahab and the “fleeing serpent” make sense in verse 13.

Job ends his observations with a note of confidence: “Behold, these are the fringes of His ways” (Job 26:14). It is almost as if he is boasting in his superior knowledge above that of his friends, making light of how he has even greater insight into God, and even this insight is just the tip of the iceberg.

He then asks rhetorically, “His mighty thunder, who can understand” (Job 26:14)? Clearly Job is saying, God’s excellence makes him border on the incomprehensible. The Scripture attests to this most explicitly in Romans 11:33: “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!” We also have a picture of this in Isaiah 6:1: “I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, lofty and exalted, with the train of His robe filling the temple.” Only the fringes of God’s robe can fit in the temple, so great is His majesty!

Job’s knowledge of God here is most excellent compared to his friends. In fact, as we discussed previously, he gets very close to understanding God’s role for evil and suffering when discussing God’s mastery of Leviathan. However, he is unaware of the Satanic nature to Leviathan and all that it entails. Thus, he stands in ignorance of why God wills him to suffer.

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