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Title: When solid doctrine meets bad application
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When solid doctrine meets bad application
Last week we had to end in the middle of Job’s rebuttal to his friend Bildad. So that is where we are picking backup tonight.
“(1) I am weary of my life; I will complain without restraint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.
(2) I will say to God, ‘Do not condemn me; tell me why You are contending with me.’
(3) Is it good for You to oppress, to despise the work of Your hands, while You smile on the schemes of the wicked?
(4) “Do You have eyes of flesh, or do You see as a human being sees?
(5) Are Your days like the days of a mortal, or Your years like the years of a mortal, (6) that You must search out my iniquity, and inquire about my sin, (7) although You know that I am not guilty, and that there is no one who can deliver out of Your hand?
(8) “Your hands have shaped me and made me, but now You destroy me completely.
(9) Remember that You have made me as with the clay; will You return me to dust?
“(10) Did You not pour me out like milk, and curdle me like cheese?
(11) You clothed me with skin and flesh and knit me together with bones and sinews. (12) You gave me life and favor, and your intervention watched over my spirit. ”
Knowing as we do that Job is BEFORE the giving of the Law, this again speaks to the retention of the particulars of creation. Job knows he was made from clay and was woven together by the hand of God.
In fact, this together with many other things Job ponders here may be where David got the words of his Psalm which said,
“(13) Certainly You made my mind and heart; You wove me together in my mother’s womb. (14) I will give You thanks because Your deeds are awesome and amazing. You knew me thoroughly; (15) my bones were not hidden from You, when I was made in secret and sewed together in the depths of the earth. (16) Your eyes saw me when I was inside the womb. All the days ordained for me were recorded in Your scroll before one of them came into existence. (17) How difficult it is for me to fathom Your thoughts about me, O God! How vast is their sum total!” – Psalm 139:13-17
(13) “But these things You have concealed in Your heart; I know that this is with You:
(14) If I sinned, then You would watch me and You would not acquit me of my iniquity.
(15) If I am guilty, woe to me, and if I am innocent, I cannot lift my head; I am full of shame, and satiated with my affliction.
(16) If I lift myself up, You hunt me as a fierce lion, and again You display Your power against me.
(17) You bring new witnesses against me, and increase Your anger against me; relief troops come against me.”
Of course we know Job’s complaint is untrue. God is NOT the One pursuing Job here, but rather the devil is placing Job’s faith on trial.
It is due to the preponderance of this throughout this book that I have often looked to the book of Job to supply a clarification of what we mean when we say that the scriptures are both inspired and inerrant.
Due to the nature of this book, there are MANY statements which are both true and false at the same time. Meaning, that it is a true, historical fact that Job, or Eliphaz, Bildad or Zophar said something, but not everything these men said was true or applied in its proper context.
- Job reported as saying, “It profits a man nothing that he should serve the Lord.” in Job 34:9.
God however, disagrees with Job’s statement as is testified to in Malachi 3:13,14,
“Your words have been harsh against Me,” Says the LORD.
Yet you say, ‘What have we spoken against You?’
You have said, ‘It is useless to serve God; What profit is it that we have kept His ordinance, And that we have walked as mourners Before the LORD of hosts”.
- Job also said, “…He destroys the blameless with the wicked.” – Job 9:22. Yet God affirms the opposite in Gen. 18:25 and Prov. 17:26.
“Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” – Genesis 18:25
“Also, to punish the righteous is not good, Nor to strike princes for their uprightness.” – Proverbs 17:26
So Job here is accusing God of bringing witnesses against him, when in reality God was the One trying to dissuade satan’s attack in the first place!
“(18) “Why then did You bring me out from the womb? I should have died and no eye would have seen me! (19) I should have been as though I had never existed; I should have been carried right from the womb to the grave!
(20) Are not my days few? Cease, then, and leave me alone, that I may find a little comfort, (21) before I depart, never to return, to the land of darkness and the deepest shadow, (22) to the land of utter darkness, like the deepest darkness, and the deepest shadow and disorder, where even the light is like darkness.”
In this last verse I like the Holman’s translation as well which reads like this..
“(22) It is a land of blackness like the deepest darkness, gloomy and chaotic, where even the light is like the darkness.
Instead of translating the word seder as disorder, which is entirely proper to do, it chooses another word which is also appropriate that being “chaotic”. This is the only place this word is used in all of scripture. Due to the tendency for words to morph over the years, it probably carries a slightly different meaning than it came to in later extra biblical literature.
I find it interesting and, in my opinion, is yet one more possible evidence of a very early date for the book. The concept of darkness and light being associated with chaos and order, a lack of understanding and clarity of thought is VERY early in human history in that it dates back to God’s Own thoughts and intentions on the matter.
If we go back to Genesis we see that God always worked from evening to morning, which in turn is how He commanded the Israelites to live. Thus making our morning to evening approach not just a different way of doing things, but is in fact incorrect. It also sets us up for error in understanding some essential truths of life as well as some deeper theological truths. God is VERY purposeful in what He does and His established pattern from Day 1 of Creation was a pattern of days being experienced from evening until morning.
Let’s read Genesis 1:4-5 as the first example in all of scripture, – “(4) And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. (5) God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.”
This first appearance establishes this pattern as a first principle and first principles are incredibly important in scripture. They create a grounding effect for all other related issues – centering them on some rudimentary truths from which we need to be careful not to stray.
Now I DO believe things like these can be taken WAY TOO far as well, to the point of eclipsing other truths and even stretching beyond their intended limitations, so we have to be careful.
In God’s dictation of Day 1, God defines days (all days) as moving from evening to morning and so establishes a pattern of thinking.
In each instance the phrase is, “…and the evening and the morning were the second day or the third day or the fourth day…etc”. However in the Hebrew a clear distinction is made concerning the first day. It reads “…and the evening and the morning were DAY ONE”
These words are very emphatic in Hebrew. This wording was clearly intended to convey that this day was the first of all days – it was THE day from which all other days would be defined. So it is that not just WHAT God did, but HOW He did it sets the standard for all other days!
Evening / Morning = a day
Each day of creation BEGAN at sunset and God called it evening or in Hebrew the word is erev and means darkness, dusk, evening, and sunset. However, these external definitions sprang out of their root understandings of obscurity, mixture, chaos and increasing entropy.
When the day approaches evening, things increasingly get obscured, it becomes hard to see, darkness (chaos) encroaches, and there is seemingly a movement toward disorder (entropy). The word came to mean “evening” because of this.
Morning on the other hand is the opposite of evening.
Sunlight pierces the darkness and things become discernible. Entropy decreases, visibility is restored, and a seeming order ensues. This is why the Hebrew word boker (or boqer) came to mean “morning.”
So in God’s telling of the Creation week God establishes a pattern of perpetually moving from Chaos to Order.
Though Genesis is a literal account of creation, there is another layer of understanding and depth. On day one, God took creation and brought order to the chaos. On the second day, He continued His work and brought about more order. This continued through day six until creation was complete and therefore the “erev” (obscurity, chaos, entropy) of creation was brought into order.
Why didn’t day seven have an evening and morning? In a literal sense it did – it had a sunrise and a sunset. But there is more to the story than daylight … erev/boker is not mentioned because creation was whole, was now in order, and was therefore “very good” (Genesis 1.31).
According to Thales Gerald Schroeder’s knowledge of Hebrew, as he addresses these two words in his work “The Science of God” he said, “In the subtle language of evening and morning, centuries before the Greek words Chaos and Cosmos were ever written…the Bible described a step-by-step flow from disorder (erev) to order (boker).”
[As side note: Dr. Schroeder has an interesting view of a correlation between the literal age of the universe according to scripture and the estimated date which astrophysics has assigned to it. I have to say I am somewhat pleased, in that I had proposed the same thing over 20 years ago with some possible minor differences in that I still believe the earth is literally 7,000 years old, but exists in a universe in which time has been dilated by means of God’s stretching out the heavens.]
So it is that I find this phrase interesting in Job. It seems that being no further from the flood than Job likely was, this understanding of days was still prevalent on some level or at very least the lessons that they taught were still understood.
Next we finally hear from Job’s third friend Zophar whose words of correction and reproof, though largely theologically correct, are still wrong in relation to Job since he too sees this whole thing as a matter of God’s judgment against sin. We can sympathize with Zophar in his indignance at Job’s ranting against God which is in part due Job for his unbridled accusations at God. Nevertheless, but in Zophar’s zeal he speaks words himself he will later have to recant – just like his two friends who responded to Job before him.
“(1) Then Zophar the Naamathite spoke up and said:
(2) “Should not this abundance of words be answered, or should this talkative man be vindicated? (3) Should people remain silent at your idle talk, and should no one rebuke you when you mock?
(4) For you have said, ‘My teaching is flawless, and I am pure in your sight.’ (5) But if only God would speak, if only He would open His lips against you, (6) and reveal to you the secrets of wisdom – for true wisdom has two sides – so that you would know that God has forgiven some of your sins.”
Now this last phrase is interesting. Zophar here is stating that God’s wisdom is “double in understanding” meaning there is FAR more to it that anyone comprehends, Job included. However, it could be seen as if Zophar thinks he DOES see the fullness of God’s wisdom at least in this situation, thus making his statement both derisive, condescending and arrogant. There is however, no solid proof of what Zophar’s thoughts were behind this statement. Therefore, decorum would instruct us to interpret these words conservatively.
Then Zophar says something which is true of God in general but specifically true regarding His Own. The New English translates this as, “God has forgiven some of your sins” which is a translation I neither agree with, nor do I believe to be theologically sound.
Other translations like the Holman choose to translate this as, “God has chosen to overlook some of your sins.” This too, I believe, has theological problems.
These translations can be forgiven this in that the Hebrew literally says, “God causes to be forgotten for you part of your iniquity”. However, these words as represented in English do not convey the proper meaning. The actual meaning behind these words is that God was exacting less punishment from Job than Job deserved which is an entirely different matter.
The NKJV can be praised for conveying this true meaning by saying, “Know therefore that God exacts from you Less than your iniquity deserves.”
That is of course a statement which we KNOW is repeated many times in scripture as indicative of the mercy with which God often judges.
All this being true, Zophar was still wrong because he was approaching Job from the opinion that these difficulties were due to judgment for sin, rather than what it truly was – which was a trial from the enemy intended to excite out of Job a rejection of God.
“(7) “Can you discover the essence of God? Can you find out the perfection of the Almighty?
(8) It is higher than the heavens – what can you do?
It is deeper than Sheol – what can you know?
(9) Its measure is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea. ”
Now in these verses Zophar was correct in his general theology, but again wrong in his application of it.
God told Israel through the prophet Isaiah the same thing in reference to the way they were thinking in Isaiah 55:6-9,
“(6) Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. (7) Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.
(8) “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.
(9) “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
“(10) If He comes by and confines you and convenes a court, then who can prevent Him? (11) For He knows deceitful men; when He sees evil, will He not consider it?
(12) But an empty man will become wise, when a wild donkey’s colt is born a human being.”
I will say this, Zophar seems particularly antagonistic with Job. Some of his words are a little stinging, though somewhat cloaked in metaphor.
Here he essentially called Job an empty headed man and that he had as much chance of becoming wise as a donkey has of giving birth to a human. Not particularly kind words for a friend in distress. Again, I am somewhat sympathetic with him in that he is angry with Job’s flagrant words spoken against God, but he need not descend into derisive language to make his point.
“(13) “As for you, if you prove faithful, and if you stretch out your hands toward Him, (14) if iniquity is in your hand – put it far away, and do not let evil reside in your tents.
(15) For then you will lift up your face without blemish; you will be securely established and will not fear. (16) For you will forget your trouble; you will remember it like water that has flowed away. (17) And life will be brighter than the noonday; though there be darkness, it will be like the morning. (18) And you will be secure, because there is hope; you will be protected and will take your rest in safety.
(19) You will lie down with no one to make you afraid, and many will seek your favor.
(20) But the eyes of the wicked fail, and escape eludes them; their one hope is to breathe their last.”
These words are not without precedence in that we see similar refrains throughout the Psalms – both the godly and the ungodly will receive their due rewards.
Of course we have several times witnessed that the understanding of these god fearing men regarding existence following physical death was not very well developed.
We understand that those who are wicked will find no hope in death – which is what is meant by “when they breathe their last”. Nevertheless, so far Job, his wife and Zophar all seem to think that the godly and the ungodly are at rest after physical death. Another attestation to an early date for these events, predating the Law given to Moses.
In Job 12 he sticks to his guns, claiming all of this adversity can be laid at the feet of God as the One Who caused them. He also begins to get a little snarky in response to this last exchange with Zophar.
He begins with claiming that he already knew all that Zophar said and that such was common knowledge.
NEVERTHELESS, Job feels as if justice has been perverted in that he as a righteous and blameless man has become a laughing stock.
Also Job continues to set the pace for his coming encounter with God by referencing the animals and the earth for lessons and learning. God will turn these back on Job when He confronts him from the whirlwind at the end of the book.
“(1) Then Job answered:
(2) Without a doubt you are the people, and wisdom will die with you.
(3) I also have understanding as well as you; I am not inferior to you. Who does not know such things as these?
(4) I am a laughingstock to my friends, I, who called on God and whom He answered – a righteous and blameless man is a laughingstock!
(5) For calamity, there is derision (according to the ideas of the fortunate) – a fate for those whose feet slip! (6) But the tents of robbers are peaceful, and those who provoke God are confident – who carry their god in their hands.”
“(7) “But now, ask the animals and they will teach you, or the birds of the sky and they will tell you.
(8) Or speak to the earth and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea declare to you.
(9) Which of all these does not know that the hand of the LORD has done this, (10) in whose hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all the human race.”
“(11) Does not the ear test words, as the tongue tastes food?
(12) Is not wisdom found among the aged?
Does not long life bring understanding?
(13) “With God are wisdom and power; counsel and understanding are His.”
It is interesting how God doesn’t miss a beat in regard to answering man in their folly.
While it is in fact a general truth that should be true at all times, wisdom does not always come with age. Also, there are times when the very young possess far more wisdom than the old. All of which is demonstrated in Elihu whom God sends to Job as an intercessor on his behalf and which is specifically addressed in chapter 32.
There Elihu says,
“(4) Now Elihu had waited before speaking to Job, because the others were older than he was. (5) But when Elihu saw that the three men had no further reply, he became very angry. (6) So Elihu son of Barakel the Buzite spoke up:
“I am young, but you are elderly; that is why I was fearful, and afraid to explain to you what I know. (7) I said to myself, ‘Age should speak, and length of years should make wisdom known.’ (8) But it is a spirit in people, the breath of the Almighty, that makes them understand.
(9) It is not the aged who are (always) wise, nor old men who (always) understand what is right. ”
“(14) If He tears down, it cannot be rebuilt; if He imprisons a person, there is no escape. (15) If He holds back the waters, then they dry up; if He releases them, they destroy the land.”
Jesus Himself says in introduction to the church of Philadelphia, “These things says He Who is holy, He Who is true, “HE WHO HAS THE KEY OF DAVID, HE WHO OPENS AND NO ONE SHUTS, AND SHUTS AND NO ONE OPENS“.
So this, if stated alone, is a true statement.
“(16) With Him are strength and prudence; both the one who goes astray and the one who misleads are His.
(17) He leads counselors away stripped and makes judges into fools. (18) He loosens the bonds of kings and binds a loincloth around their waist.
(19) He leads priests away stripped and overthrows the potentates.
(20) He deprives the trusted advisers of speech and takes away the discernment of elders.
(21) He pours contempt on noblemen and disarms the powerful.
(22) He reveals the deep things of darkness, and brings deep shadows into the light.
(23) He makes nations great, and destroys them;
He extends the boundaries of nations and disperses them.
(24) He deprives the leaders of the earth of their understanding; He makes them wander in a trackless desert waste.
(25) They grope about in darkness without light; he makes them stagger like drunkards.”
These things are also true, in their proper context.
God does give and deprive of wisdom, He does prove wise and foolish but He does not do these things in an haphazard or arbitrary manner, but only in response to man’s freewill choices and actions. Pharoah is a tremendous example of this.
Regarding nations, God is indeed sovereign and Paul all but echos these words in Acts 17 in his defense to the Areopagus,
“(26) From one man He made every nation of the human race to inhabit the entire earth, determining their set times and the fixed limits of the places where they would live, (27) so that they would search for God and perhaps grope around for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.”
We will have to stop here for time’s sake and pick back up in the middle of Job’s reply to Zophar next week.