Is 63:17–The Verse That Destroys Arminianism

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Why, O Lord, do You cause us to stray from Your ways
And harden our heart from fearing You?
Return for the sake of Your servants, the tribes of Your heritage (Is 63:17).

God causes men to stray from His ways. Wait a second, “Doesn’t God desire not the death of the sinner but that all may come to repentance?” Well, He does, but He also desires that the wicked are punished and that vessels of mercy can see what they are spared from. This is why He hardened the Pharaoh. So, God is not compelled to show all mercy, and as just punishment for sin He gives sinners over to the hardness of their own hearts.

Lastly, though this may be stretching it a bit, the final phrase in the verse is probably a prayer in light of what was just said. Isaiah is asking that God stop hardening their hearts and stop allowing them to stray. So, what point would such a prayer have if the Holy Spirit cannot positively affect the will of a man?

Either way you dice it, you cannot deny the Scripture is monergistic.

Reformed Commentary on Job: Chapter 41

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In chapter 41, God gives His fullest explanation as to why evil exists in a creation made by a good God.

The fall of Satan (i.e. Leviathan) as imagined by William Blake.

Chapter 41 (For Previous Chapter Click Here)

Just as man cannot master Behemoth, he cannot master Leviathan. For reasons we already covered in chapter 3, we can be confident that Leviathan is a type for Satan. The picture here is one of a dragon, used to great effect in the Book of Revelation.

When God asks Job whether he can “draw out Leviathan with a fish hook” or “put a rope in his nose” (Job 41:1-2), we can infer two things. First, God can and man cannot. Second, God can draw out Satan and put him to work like an ox with a rope in its nose.

We saw this in chapters 1 and 2. God set Satan up, encouraging him to target Job and even gave Satan great leeway in his work. We are nearing the end now and we are about to see the resolution: God is glorified, Satan is proved wrong, and Leviathan has been used again to work out the sovereign purposes of God even when he did not want to.

The scene in heaven appears to permeate the early section of chapter 41. Satan will not speak kindly to man out of fear or beg him for anything (Job 41:3). Yet, this is exactly what Satan did to God in chapters 1 and 2! While man cannot lightly bargain with Leviathan (Job 41:5-6), God did so in the first two chapters, using him like a play thing. Satan will not make a covenant with man (Job 41:4), but perhaps we may infer here even in his rebellion Satan still serves the purposes of God as does every angel. In fact, as we have belabored the point here, all things serve the purposes of God. Satan in the beginning made a covenant with God to serve Him, but then rebelled. However, now even in his rebellion acts as a slave of God accomplishing His purposes.

Oh, the depths of the judgments of God! For He separates the light from the darkness, He ordains both good and evil, and He brings glory to His name through it. Indeed God takes “no pleasure in wickedness” (Ps 5:4), yet He “causes well being and calamity” (Is 45:7), the very same calamity brought upon by Leviathan and Behemoth. Indeed, “is not from the mouth of the Most High that both good and ill [literally “evil/bad” in the Hebrew: רעה רע or raw-aw’] go forth” (Lam 3:38)?

As Augustine observed, even man’s power to sin lays in God’s hands and not his own:

For what could be said more plainly than what is actually said, “As concerning the gospel, indeed, they are enemies for your sakes?” [Rom 11:28] It is, therefore, in the power of the wicked to sin; but that in sinning they should do this or that by that wickedness is not in their power, but in God’s, who divides the darkness and regulates it; so that hence even what they do contrary to God’s will is not fulfilled except it be God’s will (On Predestination of the Saints, Chapter 33).

God is not unfair in this. Some will defend man, saying that he was “manipulated to do wrong” by Satan. Man in his own heart is sinful and is enticed by Leviathan to act upon his own thoughts. The consequences that man suffers as a result are well deserved. Just as Hitler is guilty of killing millions, the murderers he used are also guilty of killing millions. For the one who entices to evil is wicked just as the ones so enticed are wicked.

After making these points, God essentially continues to reiterate the idea that moves on to speak of how man cannot master Satan for the majority of the chapter (Job 41:7-8, 12-32). Indeed, without God putting a hedge around Job, he was powerless to prevent the ravages of Leviathan. Leviathan is an impenetrable, imposing dragon that breathes fire. He is wicked, with “a heart as hard as a stone” (Job 41:24). While man cannot pierce and slay Leviathan (Job 41:7), God can (Is 51:9).

Interestingly enough, though the battle with Leviathan for man is terrifying (Job 41:8), the Beast’s body parts are never described with an offensive quality. No talons, claws, or even a fist are mentioned. His lips are mentioned as terrifying, but his teeth are merely mentioned as being in between them (Job 41:14). He laughs at javelins but he himself does not wield a weapon (Job 41:28-30). The same is true of his lackey Behemoth (Job 40:15-18).

Why are mentions of aggression or body parts associated with such noticeably absent? Clearly, the Beast is powerful and cannot be mastered by man, but he is powerless to destroy the eternal soul of the believer: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:38-39).

Leviathan cannot separate believers from the source of righteousness: their union with Christ. Those “whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified” (Rom 8:30). The Christian is already justified. Indeed, he is already glorified sitting in the heavenly realms. The Christian cannot be unjustified, unglorified, or have his seat in heaven taken away, because he is already seated in the heavenly realms.

It is as if God is telling Job, “Yes, I expose you to suffering, but can’t you see that Satan is the source of it? I am master over Satan, I permit him to do his work and I am master over him. He will not be allowed to truly harm you. Can’t you see, though you lose everything, you did not lose your faith? In the loss of your physical blessings you may be ‘sorrowful yet always rejoicing,…poor yet making many rich,…having nothing yet possessing all things’ (2 Cor 6:10). So, ‘he who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it’ (Matt 10:39).”

As we touched on in chapter 40, Job is never given a reason for his suffering that is really “satisfying” to us. That is because we want an answer that revolves all around us. Yet, in universe made by God is Theocentric, not Anthropocentic. This is what God says:

Behold, your expectation is false;

Will you be laid low even at the sight of him?

No one is so fierce that he dares to arouse him;

Who then is he that can stand before Me?

Who has given to Me that I should repay him?

Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine (Job 41:9-11).

Job thought during his speeches that if it were not for God, left to himself he could have avoided the consequential suffering. God’s response is that any expectation Job has of going out on his own and confronting evil all alone is foolish. The sight of Satan alone would be enough to subdue Job.

Yet, God can rouse Leviathan and easily make mincemeat of him. If nothing under the sun can boast of this, than who can stand before God? No one.

It is from a position of strength that God gives His final answer to the question of “why do bad things happen to good people:” it is His prerogative to do as He pleases.

People do not like that answer, but if we really meant “not our will, but your will be done” it intuitively makes the most sense. If God wills that Leviathan and the attendant evils along with him exist, then God knows best. Everything under heaven belongs to Him. Is He in our debt that He is compelled to do it our way and not His own? Shouldn’t we really mean it when we pray “Your will be done, not ours?”

In short, God is saying that it is His right to deal with man the way He knows is best. He reserves the right to do as He pleases. Think about this for a moment: man always thinks of his own rights. Arminians and synergists will argue that it is not “right” that all men are not given mercy. Job thinks he has the “right” to not have God remove the hedge of protection around it.

But, who really has “rights” in this universe? Man to dictate what He wants from God? Of course not.

“[D]oes not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use” (Rom 9:21)? If the basis of God’s justice in showing mercy to some and giving others their just deserts is that it is a matter of God’s prerogative, then the whole issue is settled. All things are a matter of God acting as He pleases and it is His right to do so.

So, this means that Leviathan and his attendant evils are part of God’s plans. Man’s own self-deception in worshiping Leviathan, the Satanic Beast, is explicitly consistent with His purposes. “For God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled” (Rev 17:17). As Augustine observes, God appears to sustain Leviathan for a time to fulfill His righteous purposes:

But the goodness of the Creator never fails either to supply life and vital power to the wicked angels (without which their existence would soon come to an end); or, in the case of mankind, who spring from a condemned and corrupt stock, to impart form and life to their seed, to fashion their members, and through the various seasons of their life, and in the different parts of the earth, to quicken their senses, and bestow upon them the nourishment they need. For He judged it better to bring good out of evil, than not to permit any evil to exist (The Handbook on Hope, Faith, and Love, Chapter 27).

Further:

Nor can we doubt that God does well even in the permission of what is evil. For He permits it only in the justice of His judgment. And surely all that is just is good. Although, therefore, evil, in so far as it is evil, is not a good; yet the fact that evil as well as good exists, is a good. For if it were not a good that evil should exist, its existence would not be permitted by the omnipotent Good, who without doubt can as easily refuse to permit what He does not wish, as bring about what He does wish (The Handbook on Hope, Faith, and Love, Chapter 96).

It is true that Satan rules over the earth for a time and terrorizes man with his intimidating qualities. For a time he is proud as lord over the demons and wicked men (Job 41:25, 34). He sows chaos in the sea (Job 41:31) and leaves his trail wherever he goes from times of old (Job 41:32). Though “nothing on Earth is like” Leviathan and God has “made [him] without fear” (Job 41:33), he is destined to fail in his mission. God fulfills His purposes by exploiting the wickedness and power of Leviathan and man alike. He is righteous in doing so and brings about the greatest possible good so that He may work all things for good.

God leaves the conversation on this note, sort of like He did when He stopped revealing Scripture at the end of the Old Testament. There was something missing from the story: a resolution. We know the whole counsel of God is summed up in Jesus Christ. By His grace, we will see the subsequent chapter in the same light, thus resolving why suffering exists and how it points us to Jesus Christ.

Debating Calvinists on Celibacy…

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It is pretty sad that when I write a blog that is meant to defend Reformed theology and Protestantism, that I have to correct Protestants. Even worse yet, as a married man, I have to defend celibacy. Why? Because the Scripture’s teaching on the matter is clear.

On Christian Forums a Catholic wanted to flame-bait Calvinists into a debate over celibacy:

I responded:

In general, Protestants reject Biblical teaching on chastity, which I think they do to their own error.

However, Paul writes later to the unmarried that if they are young, they should remarry, the same issue being the presumption that they will not be able to deal with their lust.

I think there is a lack of teaching on Christian marriage that Christians should marry for this reason. By default, we are marrying sinners and we ourselves are sinners. So, you already have by default two incompatible people. God calls men to be like Christ to their wives though their wives are sinners and for wives to submit to their husbands as if he were like Christ even though he is a sinner. Throughout the process God will sustain His people by His Spirit and conform married people increasingly to the image of His Son…

However, the issue here at its center is lust. If lust is not a struggle Paul is clear, it is preferable not to marry. If lust IS struggle Paul says it is no sin, it is good to marry. The same God sustains all men and women in both decisions. 

Speaking of 1 Cor 7:6 a Protestant wrote:

I responded:

Personally, I oppose this interpretation. The Scripture is the word of God, not Paul. I even think the greetings exist in the epistles, as well as the Epistle to Philemon, to give us an accurate idea of what the Spirit-driven life consists of. There are no useless speculations and opinions in Scripture. All Scripture is God-breathed.

As for Paul, he ends the chapter saying, “and I think that I too have the Spirit of God” (1 Cor 7:40). I think Paul is being humble. He knows he is talking by the Spirit, just not from a specific commandment from Jesus’ ministry.

Another Protestant responded:

I replied;

Theoretically yes, but it runs deeper than that. We would not trust a celibate religious leader for marital or child-rearing advice, even though God used Paul for such things and he was unmarried. I think in many ways, we do not trust the leading of the Spirit and doubt how He can work through different people.

Let’s admit it. Unmarried people are considered weird. We don’t trust them as much. Any man unmarried is presumed to be a homosexual in the closet or a real freak that cannot land a woman. I really don’t think this is what the Bible says.

The Holy Spirit can raise unmarried men just as well as married men to lead the church. Of course, God in His wisdom knows there will be many more men with normal sexual inclinations that should be married, which is why in the Pastoral Epistles the guidelines to be a deacon and elder presume the man is married.

I do not share your concern about a demographic epidemic for Christians if they take Paul seriously. God will convict the heart that reads 1 Cor 7 to take the advice according to His will for that man or woman. There will always be Christian parents and children, and there will always be children who become Christians despite their households, and children stay in their sin despite the beliefs of their parents.

Apparently what I wrote was making too much sense, so a Protestant disrespectfully responded:

I responded:

Wait, aren’t we on the same side?

This is the sort of spiritual blindness that has been plaguing Protestants (and by the way I worship at a Reformed Baptist church I am not a Catholic). The whole chapter is God breathed, this is the portion you refer to:

To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (1 Cor 7:8, 9)

Clearly, Paul’s instruction is that it is preferable to remain unmarried, but if the individual does not have the gift of celibacy (which is the presumption) then Paul says by all means, don’t struggle with lust and marry.

It is a pretty straight forward teaching, with no corners to get painted into.

Us Protestants should not be cutting off our nose to spite our face. So, that means defending Biblical truths that Rome has been doing a better job explaining on the most part than us.

Rom 11:20–A Verse That Destroys Sacradotalism

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Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear…

Cyril of Jerusalem teaches that apart from faith, the sacrament of baptism is powerless. How does this idea, in addition to Rom 11:20, prove definitively that sacradotalism as it is presently practiced is radically inconsistent?

These plain words teach us one thing: we don’t maintain our salvation with works or outward sacraments. We stand by faith and faith alone.

As we already covered earlier, Catholic writers predating Luther used the term “faith alone” to speak of how Christians are saved. Some Roman Catholic apologists respond that we are justified initially by faith, but that Christians are continually justified with their faith and works both playing a role.

While Protestants will not disagree over the necessity of works (“faith, if it has no works, is dead,” James 2:17), they argue that faith is synonymous with works. This means that faith actually saves but the works are the fruit of faith. No serious Protestant is saying one can have faith alone and then live a life of blatant sin, as that would not be faithful living at all!

So, the real disagreement is not over works, but over the role of sacraments. Most Protestants, aside from Baptists and their offshoots, believe that God has given to the Church sacraments as a means of dispensing additional grace to believers.

God gives all sorts of grace. For example, God gives grace to both the wicked and righteous by giving them food. Further, He gives the grace of belief, and to those same believers, He gives grace upon grace so that they grow in faith and good works. In this context, the sacraments are a means of greater grace, though not of greater salvation.

We may glean this from how Cyril of Jerusalem writes of Rom 11:20 in light of baptism:

If you stand in faith, blessed are you; if you have fallen in unbelief, from this day forward cast away your unbelief, and receive full assurance…For He is present in readiness to seal your soul, and He shall give you that Seal at which evil spirits tremble, a heavenly and sacred seal, as also it is written, In whom also ye believed, and were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. Yet He tries the soul. He casts not His pearls before swine; if you play the hypocrite, though men baptize you now, the Holy Spirit will not baptize you. But if you approach with faith, though men minister in what is seen, the Holy Ghost bestows that which is unseen (Catechetical Lecture 17, Chapters 35 and 36).

The historical teaching of the Church has been that if one dies before receiving baptism, that one is baptized (i.e. “surrounded”) by the Holy Spirit through faith. This is because faith alone saves a man from his sins, not merely water that cleans the outside of one’s body (1 Pet 3:21).

Cyril writes that because we stand by faith, the sacrament apart from faith is void of the Spirit and powerless. Some argue that “baptism now saves you,” but Titus 3:5 is talking specifically about baptism by the Holy Spirit (accompanied by water, blood, or chiefly desire). This is because the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the true baptism and this as Cyril points out comes about only by faith. We signify this baptism with water. The “seal” of the Holy Spirit which is given to believers by baptism guarantees salvation (2 Cor 1:22, Eph 4:30).

Why this long discussion on sacraments? Because when some Roman Catholics (or Eastern Orthodox, among others) invoke James 2:24 that we are “saved by works and not by faith alone,” what they have in view is that the sacraments are needed for salvation.

So, while faith initially justifies a man, it merely is his initiation into the salvation club (i.e. the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, etc.) In order to maintain that salvation and stay in the club, God has given sacraments as means of grace and they can only be meted out through the Church (i.e. the RCC, EO, etc.) Therefore, faith alone really does not save, because sacraments are needed too.

However, how does this make sense with Rom 11:20? “[T]hey were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith.” In the sacradotal view, we don’t stand by faith but by performing sacraments.

This is not a gross generalization. Augustine, as do modern Catholic thinkers, teach that apart from faith an infant is saved by virtue of the sacrament of baptism…that very same sacrament which according to Cyril was powerless apart from faith!

Perhaps it is not coincidental that Cyril, who wrote more on baptism than any other Church Father, never once mentioned infant baptism in his writings. If he did, it would contradict his view of the sacraments!

Hence, any view that sacraments save men, is at best radically inconsistent. Case in point: Apologists that argue sacraments are performed by faith will, at the same time, argue that baptism can save unbelieving infants. How can the sacrament of baptism, under this faithless circumstance, be a faithful sacrament?

Therefore, it is clear that faith alone both saves a man and maintains that saved state. Jews were broken off for their unbelief, but Christians stand by faith. Sacraments may be a means of additional grace to the faithful, but they in of themselves are void and do nothing to save a man.

If someone trusts in Christ like the thief on the cross and dies before receiving any sacraments, he is still saved. However, if one trusts in Christ and like most others lives for a time, will he seek baptism and the Lord’s Supper? Of course. No true believer, guided by the same Holy Spirit who inspired the writers of the Scriptures, will desire not to do something that the Holy Spirit commands in the Scripture. So, sacraments do not save, nor do they make us stand as it is faith that does. But, faith will encourage the believer to receive sacraments from the Church.

Reformed Commentary on Job: Chapter 40

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In Chapter 40 of Job God begins His final discourse, here focusing on His creation of the demonic realm (Behemoth) and man’s complicity with evil.

An artistic representation of Behemoth and Leviathan.

Chapter 40 (For Previous Chapter Click Here, For Subsequent Chapter Click Here)

Now that Job has been “put in his place,” God essentially asks Job to repent by reproving Him (Job 40:2). Job answers, “Behold, I am insignificant; what can I reply to You?…I will add nothing more” (Job 40:5-6).

If the book ended here, Job’s repentance would be sufficient. He understood that he was not fit to question God. Man’s lack of fitness in this regard was God’s whole point in chapters 38 and 39. So, even if he did not understand the relationship between God and the existence of evil, acknowledging his own limitations would suffice.

Liberal commentators are not very big fans of Job’s response. J. Gerald Janzen writes, “Job’s response at first glance seems disappointingly submissive…a retreat from the honesty of the dialogues” (Interpretation of Job, p. 242). He then posits that the term “behold” in Hebrew means “if.” So, Job would actually be responding to God like a sarcastic child: “If I am so insignificant, like you say, why should I bother even talking to you?”

Without an expertise in Hebrew, context alone rules out such a conclusion. First, God’s response in the next two chapters would make no sense. Why would God respond to Job saying he’s supposedly too insignificant to take part in this dialogue with Him with a response that revolves around His mastery over Satan? There would be no way to reconcile God’s response to Job’s charge in a literary sense if we went with the alternate Hebrew meaning to “behold.” Second, Job repents again in chapter 42 displaying an explicit understanding of God’s sovereignty over the forces of evil. The traditional interpretation, that the responses reflect a humbling of Job, therefore make the most sense.

Job’s response is one of fear. He is recanting and is afraid of judgment. Job has every reason to be afraid, because as we find out later God’s anger burned against those who spoke wrongly about him, which Job was not entirely innocent of.

The reason he responds this way instead of with the more emphatic response he gives in chapter 42 is because Job does not understand why he is suffering yet. He simply knows that God is in control of everything and that he is insignificant in comparison. Job does not understand the role of evil in the world.

Before God gets into detail about this, He gives a very strongly worded repudiation of Job’s questioning of His justice. It appears that God uses the opportunity of Job’s repentance to correct him in the strongest possible terms. Job’s increased humility has put him in the position to accept what God has to say. The thrust of it in Job 40:7-14 is that man is not in his capacity capable of questioning God’s righteousness. Essentially it is a conclusion to God’s points in chapters 38 and 39 before He moves onto explaining His role in regulating evil.

Now gird up your loins like a man; I will ask you, and you instruct Me (Job 40:7).

Here, God begins correcting Job for questioning His righteousness by implying that Job is too insignificant to instruct Him. He had already done this in Job 38:3. God obviously does not presume Job can instruct Him, for He says later “[w]ho has given to Me that I should repay him? Whatever is under the whole heaven is Mine” (Job 41:11). Asking Job to instruct Him is like asking God to repay man. It implies that God is in man’s debt and in want of knowledge. Obviously, God is not compelled to pay us back because He is not in our debt, for all things are His and it is His prerogative to do what He see fit with them. In the same way, we are not in the position to teach God.

“Will you really annul My judgment? Will you condemn Me that you may be justified” (Job 40:8)?

This question is God’s “comeback” to Job’s questioning of His motives and methods throughout the book. “Why does God allow the wicked to thrive? Why does he take people who are living faithfully and thrust them into suffering?” God’s response is essentially, “Who are you, by your dissatisfaction in My decrees, to seek to have them annulled?”

This rhetorical question essentially seconds what the narrator said Elihu felt earlier in the book: “[H]is anger burned because he justified himself before God” (Job 32:2). As we have seen, Job had resorted to condemning God’s decree, so that he may maintain his right (Job 27:6) and say that God was wrong in His actions. This is tantamount to saying that he is more righteous than God. God’s response? “Does your dissatisfaction make Me any less right?” Looking at history, man does not have the track record to begin questioning God. Nor does he have the foresight or understanding to do better.

Or do you have an arm like God and can you thunder with a voice like His (Job 40:9)?

Job cannot snap his fingers and make things happen. God can. This is what He means when He speaks of His arm and voice. God creates with His spoken world in Gen 1. This is why Christ, who through the whole universe was created, is called the Word made flesh (John 1:14). Further, God redeems with an “outstretched arm” (Ex 6:6). The arm connotes power to make things happen.

Man is impotent. He cannot make things right in the world. Like a 12 year old back seat driver, he likes to tell the man at the wheel what to do but knows nothing about what he speaks of. God can save with His arm. He has creative and sustaining power by His Word. Man is totally depraved and cannot even do good (Rom 3:10). Unless Job can show this to not be the case, God says, “Then I will also confess to you that your own right hand can save you” (Job 40:14).

Indeed, “He has done mighty deeds with His arm.” He redeems His people, but He is righteous and had already “scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart” (Luke 1:51). Man cannot thunder with such a voice. God can do it, has done it, and will continue to will such things in His righteousness.

Adorn yourself with eminence and dignity and clothe yourself with honor and majesty (Job 40:10).

This is essentially a continuation of verse 9. Man is depraved, the inclinations of his heart continually towards evil. Terminally selfish and walking through darkness, man in his inability to save himself has no majesty or dignity. Man cannot clothe himself with honor or majesty, for all his deeds and thoughts are unrighteous.

There is a necessary connection between being righteous personally (as Job is) and therefore being able to create righteousness (something only God can do). By Job’s admission,  “I put on [God’s] righteousness, and it clothed me; my justice was like a robe and a turban” (Job 29:14). He had to put God’s righteousness on, so he could not clothe himself with his own honor and majesty.

Therefore, if man is not righteous apart from the grace of God, how can a depraved being know how the world ought to be if he cannot make himself what he ought to be? To clothe the world righteously, one must be able to clothe himself righteously. Because God makes men righteous by His Son Jesus Christ, then it stands to reason He runs the world righteously.

Pour out the overflowings of your anger and look on everyone who is proud, and make him low. Look on everyone who is proud, and humble him and tread down the wicked where they stand. Hide them in the dust together, bind them in the hidden place (Job 40:11-13).

Man who is proud in his sin closes his “unfeeling heart” (Ps 17:10).  Job cannot correct this any more than David who prayed for deliverance from such men. God, unlike these impotent and insignificant men, can make things right.

“God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). He lays low those whose eyes are haughty and binds them in Hell. This is why the Scripture says, “Everyone who is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord, assuredly, he will not be unpunished” (Prov 16:5).

And so God has concluded chapters 38 and 39 by contrasting man’s impotence with His mighty hand. He saves and He humbles. He sustains and He ordains what will be. God is though all and in all. Meanwhile, man can do none of these things.

All of this is sort of a “might makes right” argument. Man is less mighty than God, so God is right and man cannot question Him. This is not exactly wrong, but it does not explain why in His righteous order of things there is evil. God finally answers this question definitively in His discussion of Behemoth and Leviathan.

First, let’s introduce ourselves to what these beasts are all about. Aquinas offers us a good overview of the two:

Since he already expressed the victory of man over the devil using the image of the elephant hunt, to preclude one from believing that man by his own power can overcome the devil, he begins to exclude this in the image of Leviathan…[B]ecause he has such great power that he cannot be held by a fishhook, and to show this he says, “and will you bind his tongue with cord?” For fish which are caught with a hook are bound by the line which is attached to the hook. This means that no man can take the devil away from his malice or even bind him to keep him from doing this evil (Commentary on Job, Chapter 40).

To sum Aquinas up, he equates Behemoth and Leviathan to worldly beasts. Behemoth is an elephant and Leviathan is a whale. These different beasts are supposed to offer us a picture of our inability to combat Satan apart from God’s grace. This is why Behemoth is an Elephant that man cannot hunt, but God can: for man by his own power cannot overcome the devil. Further, Leviathan cannot be caught fishing by a man, for no man can bind him from doing evil. However, God can bind the strongman (Matt 12:29).

Therefore, man is totally impotent and cannot defend himself against Satan. However, God has mastered the demons and it is man who therefore must rely upon the One who can bind the strongman and not his own righteousness. So, the logic goes, God is righteous because He actually actively thwarts evil while man does not.

Concerning Behemoth (בּהמות), the word literally means “beasts” (yes, it is a plural) in Hebrew. The term only occurs once in Scripture (Job 40:15), while its singular form beast or “behema” (בּהמה) occurs 172 times. Usually the term in its singular form refers to a beast or “cattle.” This makes the plural usage somewhat odd and in context of the chapter where the beast is referred to singularly, some believe it to be an Egyptian loanword for the hippopotamus.

Commentators such as Aquinas, Caryl, and Gregory the Great who take the view that Behemoth and Leviathan are satanic view them as one of the same: They are personifications of Satan. By God’s grace, we would like to add the possibility that Behemoth is a personification of the entire demonic realm and Leviathan is the Prince of the World, Satan himself. Remember, Satan is not omnipresent. So, he must work with other demons to cover more ground.

Why do we take this view? First, being that it is a plural of “beast” this means that the reference may be to those in league with the Beast. So, even though the term “Beasts” (i.e. Behemoth) is used in the singular throughout the remainder of the chapter, it would not be the only time in Scripture a plurality of demons is personified in the singular.

When Christ spoke to the Gerasene Demoniac he asked for the demon’s name. The possessed man responded, “My [singular] name is Legion, for we [plural] are many” (Mark 5:9). Later in the passage, Legion refers to himself as a plural (Mark 5:12).

Second, when Leviathan is spoken of in chapter 41, there appears to be an increased emphasis on this figure when compared to Behemoth. The description is much longer and Leviathan is referred to as causing fear amongst the “gods” when “he raises himself up” (Job 41:25). The “gods” are likely the “sons of pride” in whom Leviathan is “king over” (Job 41:34).

For this reason, we will differentiate between God’s sovereignty over the legion of the sons of pride personified in Behemoth and the singular Satan personified in Leviathan.

The first important point about Behemoth is that he does not exist by accident. God made it, in fact, among the first of His creative acts (Job 40:15, 19). We know this because Christ and the Spirit are uncreated, so the angelic realm was obviously first.

The separation of the waters in Gen 1 is the first creative act and this is a reference to God defeating Leviathan. Being that God separated the waters, He made order out of the chaos and separated the angels and the demons, casting the demons to Earth.

This begs the question: why? Why make a world where there will be demons in it? Even in the beginning the serpent was in the Garden of Eden. As Gen 3:1 says, “[T]he serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made.” God created Leviathan and Behemoth, this we can know. The Book of Job does not give a direct answer other than they help fulfill God’s purpose, which is His glory. We will get more into this in a bit.

The sons of pride eat grass like an ox (Job 40:15). Just as sinful people wither and fade into death like the grass according to the Psalmist (Ps 37:2), the demonic realm feeds upon grass such as this. The wicked are conflated with grass elsewhere, such as in Ps 90:5, Ps 92:7, Is 40:6-7, Luke 12:28, and James 1:10. Further, the picture of the wild oxen who oppose Jesus in Ps 22:21 may also clue us into Behemoth’s demonic character. Like an ox that can eat almost limitless grass for hours, so do the demons work away at devouring wicked men.

Behemoth is powerful and seemingly impervious to attack (Job 40:16-18). However, God is the master of Him. We know this because only “his maker bring[s] near his sword” (Job 40:19). This means, as Aquinas observes:

To preclude one from thinking that he is the first of the ways of God [Job 40:19] because he has the power to harm from himself alone, he says, “He (God) who made him will direct his sword,” that is, his injurious act. The will to do harm comes from the devil in himself, and because of this he is called his sword. But the effect of harming can only come from the divine will or divine permission (Commentary on the Book of Job, Chapter 40).

Just as we referred to before concerning God creating the demons and casting them out of heaven as part of His divine purpose, here the Lord minces no meat about it. Even from God comes Behemoth’s power to wield his sword and sow discord in the world. Behemoth does it from his own desire to effect harm, but just as God has a purpose for the light /darkness and fortune/calamity He has created (Is 45:7), so does God for the existence of evil.

The last five verses speak to how man, apart from God’s grace protecting man, is easily in the hands of evil. It is our opinion that Job 40:20 refers both to the world being in the hand of Satan (mountains pay homage bringing him food) and to men in their sin rejoicing in it (the beasts of the field “playing”). According to Brown-Driver-Briggs’ definition of the term saw-khak’ (שׂחק) here translated “play,” its chief definition is “to laugh (usually in contempt or scorn)” i.e. evil laughing. It is not hard to imagine, men in an orgy of violence, alcohol, and sex paying homage to Satan laughing in pride enjoying their sin.

The men/beasts during all of this do not notice Behemoth hiding (Job 40:21-22). The sons of pride have infected this whole sinful world, hiding in every crevice, used by Satan to assist in the devouring of men’s souls. Just as a mighty elephant or hippopotamus is not alarmed by the rushing of the Jordan’s waters (Job 40:23), the demons pay no mind even when men are in the promised land in the present life, “raised us up with Him, and seated…in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:6). They sit right outside the border, looking for every opportunity to pounce on believers who can still so easily do the deeds of the flesh.

The demons can so easily encourage a man to walk according to the flesh and sin, because like the massive beast Behemoth they cannot be captured or mastered (Job 40:24). Man can wait for the opportunity to capture the Behemoth “when he is on watch,” but man will miss it. He cannot ever get the right opportunity, because man lacks the wisdom or power to get the job done. Man further does not have the strength or the tools to “pierce his [Behemoth’s] nose.” How can man, who could not master evil and fall prey to it so easily, question God who we may infer from these rhetorical questions can?

Essentially, the discussion about Behemoth tells us this: man falls prey to Behemoth. He cannot master the creature[s] and even pays homage to the Beast. Man is a willing participant in evil and cannot stop himself from living in such a depraved fashion.

How does any of this glorify God? Why does God permit demons to stroke the sinful passions of sinful men? We will have to wait for God’s answer in the next chapter.

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