Demons: Their Identity and Demise

Halloween is upon us. For this week’s entry to Bellator Christi, I decided to discuss a group of beings that are often veiled in mystery and fear. Those beings are demons. Hollywood often presents demons as being entities that are nearly impossible to combat. Recently, interesting figures have been presented in music videos and films that finds parallels to some of the demonic entities found in the Bible. This article is all about demons as we ask: who are demons; how do they operate; and what is their fate? Are demons creatures to be feared? How do we combat them? Hopefully, this article will provide some answers.

Who are Demons?

Demons are angelic beings. Therefore, they are spiritual creatures. Demons are former angels who have fallen for the lies of Satan. While the Scriptures do not provide a lot of information pertaining to their fall, they are noted in Revelation 12 as being deceived by Satan, depicted as a great red dragon (Rev. 12:3), who sweeps “down a third of the stars of heaven [angels] and cast them to earth” (Revelation 12:4).[1] To my surprise, I discovered that Scripture depicts a few categories of demons.[2]

Sedim

One category of demons are mentioned in Deuteronomy 32:17 and Psalm 106:37. In Deuteronomy, Moses notes that the people had “sacrificed to demons that were no gods, to gods they had never known” (Deuteronomy 32:17) and that they were “unmindful of the Rock that bore you” (Deuteronomy 32:18). The psalmist notes that they “sacrificed their sons and their daughters to the demons; they poured out innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, and the land was polluted with blood” (Psalm 106:36-37). These demons, in Hebrew, are called the Sedim (Sed, singular).

Se’irim.

The Se’irim are goat-like demons. Leviticus 17:7 states that “they shall no more sacrifice their sacrifices to goat demons, after whom they whore. This shall be a statute forever for them throughout their generations.” The Se’irim are also referenced in 2 Chronicles 11:15 as goat idols. The Se’irim bear a striking resemblance to the Church of Satan’s statue Mephisto, which has been erected in several locations in the continental United States.

satanstatue_1437931159040_22035430_ver1-0_640_480
Statue of Mephisto from the Church of Satan. Notice the goat-like features.

Lilith

Some see the “night bird” (Heb. “Lilith”) of Isaiah 34:14 as a category of demon. If so, Lilith is a female demon associated with unclean animals and desolate places.

Azazel

Some see another demon known as the Azazel noted in Leviticus 16:8, 10, 26. A lot was cast by Aaron, one for Yahweh and one for Azazel (a demon). The demon Azazel represented impurity and uncleanness. The lot that fell on the goat for Yahweh was presented as a sacrifice for God. The lot that fell on the goat representing Azazel was cast into the wilderness in representation of the separation of sin from the people. In a sense, the demon was cast into the goat and cast away from the people of God. As noted in footnote 2, there is a lot of speculation concerning this demonic entity.

Evil spirits

On several occasions, evil spirits were sent to torment individuals (1 Sam. 16:15-16; 18:10). This is especially true of King Saul.

Beelzebub

Beelzebub is noted as a prince of demons, but lower than Satan. He is often associated as the lord of the flies. Beelzebub is noted in 2 Kings 1:2-3 and 6. Ahaziah inquired of Beelzebub whether he should live instead of appealing to God. Jesus is accused by His opponents for casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub (Mark 3:22).

How do Demons Operate?

Demons are opposed to the working of God. They manifest themselves in various ways throughout the Scriptures. They bring the inability to speak (Matt. 9:32; 12:22); the inability to hear (Mark 9:25); the inability to see (Matt. 12:22; John 10:21); convulsions (Mark 1:26; 9:26); amazing, nearly superhuman strength to the individual they possess (Mark 5:4); and destructive habits and behaviors (Matt. 17:15). They can also bring diseases to individuals. While there are natural occurrences of the previously noted attributes, demonic presences can add or amplify those patterns.

What is the Fate of Demons?

As fearsome as demons are, it must be remembered that they are powerless compared to God. Jesus cast out demons on several occasions, even by simply issuing a command (e.g., Mark 1:25). So, how does one combat demonic presences? Quite simple, demons are defeated by faith in Christ Jesus. If a person has the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit-filled individual can be annoyed by demons, but they cannot be possessed. They may be afflicted, but not overtaken. It is also important for an individual to equip themselves with the spiritual armor of God (Eph. 6:10-20).

A person needs to remember that the final outcome for demons is defeat. God will be victorious as “the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (Rev. 20:10). All of the demonic powers will be destroyed.

Conclusion

This Halloween, one will be inundated with horror films that depict demons as irresistible beings of evil. Films like Poltergeist capture the imagination and present demonic entities as fearsome beings. Rest assured, demons are fearsome and they are powerful. But their power ceases before the awesome presence of Christ. More fearsome than the demons is the One who has flames of fire, who will ride upon a white horse bringing judgment to the world. Who is this white horseman? It is Christ Jesus Himself. Before Him, all the world will bow the knee and confess with the tongue. Christ—the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, and the Prince of Peace—holds authority over all. If you are afflicted by the forces of the demonic realm, turn to Jesus.

For more information, see Joe Cathey, “Demonic Possession,” Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Chad Brand, Charles Draper, et. al., eds (Nashville: B&H, 2003), 412.

 christ-riding-white-horse

© October 31, 2016. Brian Chilton.

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001, 2011).

[2] It must be noted that some scholars debate whether these categories truly reference demonic beings. However, I lean towards the idea that they do, especially considering other passages that reference goats and spirit beings being demonic in nature.

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Who Were the “Minor Prophets”? Part Two: Nahum-Malachi

In our last post, I introduced you to a section of the Bible known as the Minor Prophets, also known as The Twelve.[1] We discussed the difference between the Major and Minor Prophets, while noting the great importance that the Minor Prophets have. The first entry also discussed the Minor Prophets Hosea, Joel, Obadiah, Amos, Jonah, and Micah. This post will look into the lives of Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

Nahum

Little is known about Nahum outside of the fact that he was an “Elkoshite” (Nahum 1:1).[2] Elkosh is thought by some to be around modern day Mosul, Iraq. However, the more likely identification of Elkosh is in Galilee around the Capernaum area. Even if Nahum was from Capernaum, it is apparent that he lived in Judea at the time of his writing.[3] Nahum writes to Israel during the difficult days of Assyrian oppression. Israel had allowed syncretism to sway them away from the foundations of their trust in God. While God had allowed the Assyrian take over, many Israelis began to wonder if God had completely forsaken them. Does God still love us? Nahum would answer their inquiries. As Barker and Kohlenberger note, “To the suffering remnant, there was little question that God would and did punish his own covenant people,”[4] but through Nahum God would show that He would also bring other nations into judgment also. Judgment would not last forever for God’s people on earth. The people of God would be elevated and robed in righteousness. Due to the fall of Assyria to Babylon, Nahum must be dated some time before 612 B.C.[5]

Habakkuk

Habakkuk is a unique prophet in that he does not speak for God, but rather speaks to God for the people. Habakkuk is dated around the fall of the Southern Kingdom of Judah to the hands of the Babylonians. Jerusalem was overtaken and the people were taken into exile in 586 B.C. Thus, Habakkuk must have prophesied sometime between 626 and 590 B.C. The book of Habakkuk is quite interesting. The prophet asks God, “How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’ but you do not save?…Therefore the law is paralyzed and justice never prevails. The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted” (Habakkuk 1:2, 4). God answers by saying that He is “raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people, who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwellings not their own” (Habakkuk 1:6). Habakkuk replies, “Lord, we’re bad, granted; but they’re worse!” God replies that He is going to judge every person and every nation for his/her actions. God says, “The LORD is in his holy temple, let all the earth be silent before him” (Habakkuk 2:20). Habakkuk provides an interesting and unique answer to the theodicy issue. That is, why does a loving and powerful God allow evil on the earth? The answer in part is due to free will. The people chose to rebel against God. Yet on the same token, God is in control. Thus, all evil will be ultimately judged by the sovereign power of God Almighty.

Zephaniah

Zephaniah prophesies after the time of the wicked kings Manasseh and Amon. King Josiah would bring reform to the land. However, it was during this time of reform (640-609 B.C.) that Zephaniah would warn the people of impending judgment. Josiah befriended enemy nations for hope of assistance. Josiah would trust in politics over the power of God which would later prove problematic. Zephaniah’s primary focus is on a time called the “Day of the LORD.” Zephaniah used the phrase more than any other prophet. The Day of the LORD would be a time of great judgment. However, God would provide shelter and hope for those who were faithful to Him. Zephaniah looked ahead to a time where God would glorify Israel for the remnant of the faithful. Zephaniah, speaking for God, says, “On that day they will say to Jerusalem, ‘Do not fear, Zion; do not let your hands hang limp. The LORD your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you; in his love he will no longer rebuke you, but will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:16-17).

Haggai

The prophet Haggai is a post-exilic prophet (see the section Zechariah for more details on the post-exilic period). The exiles returned to Jerusalem around 538 B.C., thus many commentators feel that Haggai prophesies around 520 B.C.[6] Haggai is the contemporary of Zechariah. Both the prophets appeal to the exiles to take up the task of rebuilding the temple despite the opposition they face by their adversaries. Haggai’s key theme is simply put in the opening chapter, “‘Go up into the mountains and bring down the timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,’ says the LORD” (Haggai 1:8).

Zechariah

The book of Zechariah holds tremendous importance to the New Testament Church. Zechariah is second only to Isaiah in being the most quoted Old Testament prophet by the New Testament writers. Jesus quoted Zechariah quite often (e.g. Matthew 26:31). Zechariah is different than most of the prophets in that he lived in what scholars call the post-exilic time. The post-exile refers to a period of time when Persia released the Jews from bondage and allowed them to return to Israel after having been in exile for 70 years. While Babylon was responsible for exiling the Jewish people, Persia had conquered Babylonia and was responsible for their release. Zechariah, serving as a prophetic priest, prophesies as the temple failed to be built 16 years prior. The first attempt had been squelched by Jewish enemies who convinced the Persian authorities that the Jews would become a threat if the temple were to be rebuilt. However, God taught the people through Zechariah that the temple would be finished if they trusted God and continued to do what they were called to do. Four years later, the temple was finished. Zechariah prophesied in Jerusalem from August 29th, 520 B.C. to 480 B.C.[7]  This writer agrees with Barker and Kohlenberger that “Zechariah is probably the most Messianic, apocalyptic, and eschatological of all the OT books.”[8] It is for this reason that one could call Zechariah the Old Testament Book of Revelation. Zechariah sees a time when God’s Messiah would redeem all people who trust in Him. He also seeks to encourage the people by reminding them that God ultimately holds victory over all their enemies. It is quite interesting and appropriate that Zechariah’s name means “Yahweh remembers.”

Malachi

The last of the Minor Prophets also serves as the last book of the Old Testament. It is the book of Malachi. Malachi, which means “My Messenger,” most likely prophesied between 515 through 458 B.C. This would have been between the completion of the temple and the ministry of Ezra in Jerusalem. Israel would face another period of social and moral decline after the temple was completed. Ezra and Nehemiah would help correct this issue. Malachi calls out the people on several issues. The people were guilty of breaking the covenant through blemished sacrifices (Malachi 1:6-14), through a lackluster attention to marriage (Malachi 2:10-16), through injustice (Malachi 2:17-3:5), and by withholding their tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:6-12). It is in Malachi that one learns about the forerunner to the Messiah. Malachi writes, “‘I will send my messenger, who will prepare he way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,’ says the LORD” (Malachi 3:1).

The Minor Prophets were fantastic and bold preachers for the Lord. They all met distinct difficulties in getting their message across. All of them faced perilous times. Some may have even been martyred.[9] But through it all, the Minor Prophets remained true to the task that God had called them to accomplish. They trusted more in God Almighty than in the political powers of the day. I think the Minor Prophets poignantly direct our attention to what really matters: faithfulness and trust in God rather than trust in government and manmade traditions.

Look for a future article addressing the main themes of the Minor Prophets coming soon.

Minor Prophets Cartoon.png
From get.Bible. 

 

Sources Cited

Barker, Kenneth L., and John R. Kohlenberger, III. Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Old Testament. Abridged Edition. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.

Walton, John H., and Craig S. Keener. The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016.

 

© September 27, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Notes

[1] Because there are 12 Minor Prophets.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the New International Version (Grand Rapids: Biblica, 2011).

[3] John H. Walton and Craig S. Keener, The NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2016), 1529, fn 1.1.

[4] Kenneth L. Barker and John R. Kohlenberger, III., Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Old Testament, abridged ed (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 1482.

[5] Just for clarification: 612 B.C. is the date that Babylon conquered Assyria.

[6] Walton and Keener, NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible, 1548.

[7] This writer holds to the unity of Zechariah as a prophetic work. Some commentators feel that two Zechariahs are responsible for the content of the book. But, this writer feels no reason to accept such a claim as the book holds literary unity.

[8] Barker and Kohlenberger, EBC, 1515.

[9] Jewish tradition holds that Zechariah was killed.

Who Were the “Minor Prophets”? Part One: Hosea-Micah

One of the most misunderstood sections of Scripture is the unit of the Old Testament known as the “Minor Prophets.” When a person speaks about their favorite texts of the Bible, one rarely hears Zechariah, Habakkuk, Amos, or Zephaniah mentioned. It is really a tragedy that such is the case because the twelve books that comprise the section termed the “Minor Prophets” holds significant value for the believer. But one may ask, “Who are the Minor Prophets and what segment of Scripture does one reference”?

The Minor Prophets consist of twelve prophets in the Bible beginning with Hosea and ending with Malachi (which also ends the segment Christians call the “Old Testament”). The minor prophets include: Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. These books are called “Minor” in contrast to the “Major Prophets” (which include Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel) due to the size of the writings, and thus do not address the prophets’ importance. The Minor Prophets were every bit as important as the Major ones. Since there are twelve Minor Prophets, many scholars address them simply as “The Twelve.” Some evidence suggests that since the Minor Prophets were significantly smaller than the Major Prophets, some compiled the writings of the Twelve onto one scroll to save space.

Some people have difficulty relating to the Minor Prophets. Part of the problem relates to a lack of knowledge as to who the Minor Prophets were and what their message was about. What was the message of the Minor Prophets and who were these individuals? In a future blog, we will address the message of the Twelve. But for now, let’s look at who these prophets were. It is important to note that by the time of the Minor Prophets that the kingdom of Israel had split into two sections. Rehoboam was king of the United Kingdom of Israel. He had succeeded his father Solomon. In 932 B.C., the Northern section of Israel led by Jeroboam rebelled and pulled away from Rehoboam’s reign due to Rehoboam’s heavy taxation (1 Kings 12:1ff). They established what was called the Northern Kingdom of Israel selecting Jeroboam as their ruler. The Northern Kingdom is sometimes simply called “Israel” during this time period. The Southern Kingdom, the area that was continued to be ruled by Rehoboam, is often called “Judea.” Bethel and Ai served as the border which divided the two kingdoms. Samaria was the capital of Israel and Jerusalem was the capital of Judea.

720px-kingdoms_of_israel_and_judah_map_830-svg[1]

Hosea

Hosea was a prophet to the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Sometimes he mentions Judah, however the main focus of his message is to Israel. Hosea had a long ministry dating from 753 to 715 B.C.[2] Hosea completed his ministry and prophecy before the time that Assyria invaded Israel. Hosea is best known for his message of love and compassion. God told Hosea to marry Gomer, a woman who was quite promiscuous (Hosea 1:2). Gomer’s infidelity against Hosea symbolized the peoples’ infidelity against God due to their idolatry. Hosea continued to love Gomer and eventually took her back. Hosea’s love for Gomer represented the continued love that God held for the rebellious people. Anyone who thinks that the prophets were only “gloom and doom” needs to take a serious look at the message of Hosea.

Joel

Little is known about the prophet Joel outside of the fact that he was the “son of Pethuel” (Joel 1:1).[3] Joel prophesied to the Southern Kingdom of Judah during the days of Uzziah, a time “of unparalleled prosperity.”[4] Thus, Joel most likely prophesied sometime around 792-740B.C.). Joel demonstrates that natural disasters can serve as God’s judgment, but primarily demonstrates that God is a “God of grace and mercy (Joel 2:13, 17), of love and patience (2:13), and of justice and righteousness (1:15; 2:23; 3:1-8).”[5] Joel is best known for his prophecy pertaining to God pouring out His Spirit upon all flesh (Joel 2:28-31).

Amos

Amos is quite the interesting prophet. Many prophets were professional prophets who spoke before the king’s court and had paid positions. Amos, however, is not one of those prophets. If there was ever a “country prophet,” Amos was one. Amos was a tenderer of sycamore figs in Tekoa. Tekoa was around 10 miles south of Jerusalem. So, Amos was a Judean prophet preaching to Israel. Amos was a brave and bold man, going so far as to call the elite women of the time the “cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria” (Amos 4:1). A person is brave in any time to say something like that to a woman! Amos is known for his confrontation with Amaziah. Amaziah was a professional prophet who wanted to preach a message that the people would like. Amos was called to preach a message that the people needed to hear. Such a contrast is noted in modern times also. Amos preached his message around 760-750B.C. Amos’ message was one of repentance, calling people back to their first love. Amos condemned actions that demonstrated hatred towards God and towards fellow humanity. Israel was guilty of syncretism (the practice of blending their beliefs with others). Amos called them back to the truth. Amos is a man needed in modern times as much as he was in Israel.

Obadiah

Obadiah is one of those difficult prophets to date, mainly because nothing much is known about him. Obadiah pronounces judgment against Edom. Edom was an area around Mount Seir located southeast of the Dead Sea. Many feel that Obadiah prophesied, although greatly debated, around the destruction that came to Edom by Nebuchadnezzar around 586 B.C. Obadiah shows that God rules from on high. Political and national entities are subject to change, but God is over all. As Barker and Kohlenberger note, “The dual thrust of 1:1 indicates two levels at which human history moves. The Lord is the ultimate mover, but there is also an international political alliance, motivated only by callous self-seeking.”[6]

Jonah

Jonah is perhaps the most popular of the Twelve. Jonah was the son of Amittai (Jonah 1:1) from the area of Gath Hepher in Galilee.[7] Jonah was called by God to preach a message of repentance to Nineveh in Assyria. Assyria was an enemy of Israel. To say that Jonah was hesitant to preach to Nineveh is an understatement. Jonah rebelled against the calling of God, eventually landing in the belly of a “huge fish” (Jonah 1:17). Jonah was spit out of the fish (Jonah 2:10). Jonah, then, travelled to Nineveh and preached a message of repentance. To Jonah’s surprise, Nineveh listened! They were spared, albeit temporarily, from God’s judgment. Jonah presents a message of God’s love for all people. God is willing to forgive even when we are not.[8]

Micah

Micah produced a theologically rich prophecy in the 8th century B.C. Micah notes that he is from Moresheth (Micah 1:1) which was approximately six miles northeast of Lachish, twenty miles southwest of Jerusalem. Micah prophesied sometime before 722 to the end of the 8th century. Micah prophesied primarily against Judah, warning of the threat of judgment. Micah, as noted earlier, is a theologically rich work. Micah emphasizes God’s sovereignty over all nation (Micah 4:11-13), God’s immutability (Micah 7:18-20), on the remnant (Micah 4:11-13), divine redemption, and the messianic kingdom.

In the next article, we will examine the remainder of the Twelve. Be sure to look for the article “Who Were the ‘Minor Prophets’? Part Two: Nahum-Malachi.”

© September 26, 2016. Brian Chilton

Sources Cited

Barker, Kenneth L., and John R. Kohlenberger, III. Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Old Testament. Abridged Edition. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.

Notes

[1] Wikipedia Commons. Oldtidens_Israel_&_Judea.svg: FinnWikiNoderivative work: Richardprins (talk) – Oldtidens_Israel_&_Judea.svg, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10872389.

[2] Kenneth L. Barker and John R. Kohlenberger, III., Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Old Testament, abridged ed (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 1407.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the New International Version (Grand Rapids: Biblica, 2011).

[4] Barker and Kohlenberger, EBC, 1426.

[5] Ibid., 1427.

[6] Ibid., 1455.

[7] Ibid., 1460.

[8] Scholars debate the historicity of Jonah. Is Jonah an allegory or is it historical? In my opinion, since Jesus referenced Jonah as historical (Matthew 12:38-41), then one should remain open to the historical nature of the book. While it is improbable that a person could survive being consumed by a large fish, it is not impossible. God is master even over the fish, so it is indeed possible that God could have accomplished those things attributed to Him in the book.

Is God’s Jealousy a Negative Attribute?

The Bible attributes several attributes to God. Many of the more popular attributes are God’s love, holiness, and grace. Any serious theologian will know the four core “omni” attributes: omniscience (all-knowing), omnipotence (all-powerful), omnipresence (all-presence), and omnibenevolence (all-loving). While these attributes are all positive, many critics pinpoint another attribute of God as being greatly problematic: God’s jealousy.

Critics charge that jealousy is a bad trait to hold. Famed atheist Richard Dawkins claims that God breaks “into a monumental rage whenever his chosen people flirted with a rival god.”[1] Paul Copan notes that “Oprah Winfrey said that she was turned off to the Christian faith when she heard a preacher affirm that God is jealous.”[2] Jealousy is condemned for the human being. One of the Ten Commandments states that a person should not “covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17).[3] Thus, jealousy seems to be a negative trait. But wait! Doesn’t the Bible claim that God is jealous? It does.

The Bible states at least 13 times that God is jealous for His people. For instance, Moses notes that “the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24). Later in Deuteronomy, God says, “They have made me jealous with what is no god; they have provoked me to anger with their idols. So I will make them jealous with those who are no people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation” (Deuteronomy 32:21).

What do we make of this? Jealousy seems to be a negative trait. The Bible presents God as jealous. Therefore, it would seem that God holds negative traits. One is left with three options: 1) One could claim that God holds negative attributes meaning that He is not completely perfect; 2) One could claim that the Bible is erred in its presentation of God; 3) One could claim that our understanding of God’s jealousy could be misunderstood.

The first option demerits the Bible’s presentation of God as valid. If God exists, then God must be a maximally great Being. If the God of the Bible is not a maximally great Being, then the God of the Bible is not really the God of the universe at all.

The second option devalues the Bible, the Word of God. The New Testament writers extracted their understanding of God from the Old Testament. Therefore, if the Old Testament is erred in its presentation of God, then that would carry over into the New Testament. This causes a serious problem for the believer. If we cannot accept the presentation of God in the Bible, then can we accept the God of the Bible?

The third option is best. Our understanding of God’s jealousy must be defined. There must be some misunderstanding that we hold as it pertains to the idea of divine jealousy. In fact, the third option is the only real valid option on the table. When one honestly evaluates God’s jealousy, the person comes to the understanding that God’s jealousy is actually rooted in love. Thus, God’s jealousy becomes a positive trait for three reasons.

God’s jealousy over His people is positive as it relates to God’s passion.

God has a passion for His people. Let’s go back to the passage in Deuteronomy. We all know that Scripture is often taken out of context. Placing Deuteronomy 4:24 in context, one will find that Moses was addressing the issue of the peoples’ covenant with God. God had already blessed the people immensely. God brought them out of slavery. God was about to bring them to a special place prepared for them. God was going to build a great nation out of them. However, the people kept cheating on God. God poured out His love to the nation. He was eventually going to bring the Chosen Messiah, the Savior of the world, in their midst. But they kept cheating on God. Moses says in Deuteronomy 4:23, “Take care, lest you forget the covenant of the LORD your God, which he made with you.”

The marriage analogy is often used to describe God’s jealous passion for His people. Paul Copan rightly notes that “A wife who doesn’t get jealous and angry when another woman is flirting with her husband isn’t really all that committed to the marriage relationship. A marriage without the potential for jealousy when an intruder threatens isn’t much of a marriage.”[4] God had a passion for His people. While Dawkins may think that God’s jealousy is a negative attribute due to the peoples’ “flirting with other gods,” it should be remembered that idolatry is adultery against God.[5] Thus, God’s jealousy is rooted in His love.

God’s jealousy over His people is positive because it relates to God’s purpose.

God’s jealousy is also rooted in His purpose. Wayne Grudem defines God’s jealousy by “God continually seeks to protect his own honor.”[6] Critics may charge, “See! God only concerns Himself with His own glory and elevated role. This means that God is not humble.” But not so fast. Let’s put this in perspective.

Human jealousy is wrong because one covets something that he/she holds no claim in holding. It is wrong for me to covet my neighbor’s car because I hold no claim to the car. In like manner, human pride is bad because it elevates a person’s position higher than what the person possesses. I can think all day that I am the President of the United States. I can walk around like a peacock telling everyone about my successful presidency. The reality is, however, that I am not the President and will most likely never be. But what if someone who holds the office claims to be President? Right now, the President of the United States of America is Barack Obama. Regardless of your thoughts of him and his presidency, let’s ask: is it wrong for Obama to claim to be President? Is it wrong for him to demand respect for his position? Is it wrong for him to do presidential things? No. Why? It is because he is the President. Is it, therefore, wrong for God to call Himself God and to expect to be treated like God? No. Why? It is because He is God. Paul Copan rightly notes, “Is God proud? No, he has a realistic view of himself, not a false or exaggerated one. God, by definition, is the greatest conceivable being, which makes him worthy of worship.”[7]

Simply put: it is not wrong for God to be jealous over His purpose and glory. Such purpose and glory belongs to God and God alone.

God’s jealousy over His people is positive because it relates to the human protection.

I am a big brother. My sister is about 7-years-younger than I. Big brothers normally have a protective instinct. I most certainly do. My sister is a loving, free-spirited woman who always sees the good. I, in contrast, see the world the way it really is. My son is much like my sister. I find that my protective juices flow overtime being a parent. Without guidance, it would be easy for my son to take the wrong path as the first shiny, attractive thing gets his attention. As a parent, it is my job to help keep him on the right track. I have a jealous love for my son because I want what’s best for him.

God’s jealousy works in much the same way. God’s jealous love is actually for the benefit, not the detriment, of human protection. God is omniscient. That means that God knows all things. God is also omnisapient, meaning that God possesses all wisdom. Going back to Copan, he notes, “God seeks to protect his creatures from profound self-harm. We can deeply damage ourselves by running after gods made in our own image. God’s jealousy is other-centered.”[8] I agree wholeheartedly with Copan’s assessment. God’s jealousy is actually for the greater human good.

Conclusion

God’s jealousy is not the same as human jealousy. The difference primarily lies in authority. It is wrong for people to be jealous over something that someone else holds because they hold no true claim to such thing. God, in contrast, having the greatest, supreme authority and power is completely justified in being jealous over His people. His jealousy is actually rooted in His love, purpose, and even human protection. Thus, God’s jealousy is not a negative attribute. It is actually a gloriously positive one.

© August 22, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Sources Cited

[1] Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2006), 243.

[2] Paul Copan, Is God a Moral Monster? Making Sense of the Old Testament God (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2011), 34.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[4] Copan, Is God a Moral Monster?, 35.

[5] See the book of Hosea for a full treatment of this analogy.

[6] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 205.

[7] Copan, Is God a Moral Monster?, 28.

[8] Ibid., 40.

5 Tips for Reading Proverbs

At graduation, I had a chance to personally meet many of the wonderful professors at Liberty University that have impacted my life greatly over the course of these past three years. One particular professor caught my attention. He is Dr. Kevin King. King is a fascinating individual. He is a former police officer, who still looks as if he could physically pick up a house. During one of his courses, he had a classic phrase that he often used. “Stinky thinking leads to a smelly life.” When I met him, I told him what a blessing he was and how I have used that phrase many times. He jokingly said, “I can’t remember who I stole that from, but it is so true.” I agreed.

Proverbs help us avoid “stinky thinking.” The Proverbs point us in the direction of right thinking and right living. But, let’s be honest. Sometimes the Book of Proverbs is difficult to understand. Perhaps the problem with the Proverbs is that the reader often misunderstands the writing genre.  In this article I hope to provide you a working definition of a proverb, in addition to 5 tips that have personally helped me to better understand the Proverbs.

The Book of Proverbs is a “marvelous collection of wise sayings and instructions for living a useful and effective life.”[1] Thus, the Book of Proverbs is a book of wisdom. It is meant to impart wisdom to its readers to better their lives. Before we can properly understand the book, we must understand the nature of a proverb. What is a proverb anyhow?

What is a Proverb?

Proverbs are defined and characterized by “short, pithy statements; but the speculative wisdom, such as Ecclesiastes or Job, uses lengthy monologues and dialogues to probe the meaning of life, the problem of good and evil, and the relationship between God and people.”[2] Proverbs can provide an “object lesson based on or using some comparison or analogy.”[3] Duane Garrett notes,

“The most common form of Old Testament wisdom is the proverb. It may be defined as an ethical axiom, that is, a short, artistically constructed ethical observation or teaching. An observational proverb is a saying that describes human behavior without an explicit moral evaluation. A didactic proverb describes human behavior with a clear ethical-didactic purpose, that is, it includes an explicit moral evaluation.”[4]

Thus, a proverb is a means of communicating wisdom through life principles through short, effective means. Or, it is a “colloquial means of getting a point across.”[5] This makes one wonder, “how do we understand the Proverbs?” I have listed 5 tips to help the reader better understand the Book of Proverbs.

5 Tips for Understanding Proverbs

  1. Try to focus on general themes. While many of the proverbs appear random, they are gathered under one general focus. The proverbs are, however, scattered into different sections. For this reason, I have decided to use Max Anders’ topical format in his commentary on Proverbs in the Holman Old Testament Commentary rather than the strict, and more confusing, chapter-by-chapter format found in many other studies.
  2. Don’t overcomplicate the saying. The pithy nature of the proverbs is intended to bring about one generalized truth. Try to focus on the general truth presented.
  3. Understand that the proverbs are general rules and guidelines and do not address the exceptions. The Book of Proverbs lists general principles and truths according to the way life generally operates 95% of the time. Job, Ecclesiastes, and even some of the psalms describe life in the other 5%. Both Job and Ecclesiastes perfectly complements the generalized wisdom found in Proverbs.
  4. As we must always do in Scripture, we must understand the proverbs according to the culture of the time. Max Anders denotes that “There are some proverbs that cannot be understood unless we understand the culturally obsolete thing they are talking about.”[6]
  5. The proverbs are general statements of truth rather than divine promises. The Book of Proverbs notes, “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6, ESV).[7] Yet, we probably all know of a set of parents who brought up their children in the ways of God only to see one or more of their children stray from the path. Is the proverb wrong? No, because the proverb is not a divine promise, but rather a general statement of fact. More times than not, children who are brought up right will remember their parents wisdom and will not depart from the ways of God.

Conclusion

Wisdom is critical for godly living. It is critical in order to make proper decisions and to live godly, moral lives. When the reader understands some basic hermeneutical information about the operation of a proverb, then the Book of Proverbs is unlocked for the reader. Godly wisdom which has spanned several millennia is then available to the reader. One must understand that God is the source of wisdom. Through God’s word and practical understanding, God offers wisdom to the one who seeks it. Such wisdom is especially found in the marvelous Book of Proverbs.

Copyright, May 30, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Note: Excerpts from this article were taken from the author’s Bible Study on Proverbs titled: “Proverbs: Pithy Life Lessons.”

Notes

[1] Kenneth L. Barker and John R. Kohlenberger, III, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Old Testament, abridged ed (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 938.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 940.

[4] Duane A. Garrett, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, vol. 14, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993), 29-30.

[5] John H. Walton, et. al., The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2000), 561.

[6] Max Anders, Proverbs, Holman Old Testament Commentary, vol. 13 (Nashville: B&H, 2005), 3.

[7] Scripture marked ESV comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

The Holiness of God (Leviticus 11:44-45)

We have been looking at the attributes of God. One particular attribute that must be discussed as we consider God’s attributes is that of God’s holiness. Holiness means that God is set-apart. In Leviticus 11:44, God says to the people of Israel, “For I am the LORD your God. Consecrate yourselves therefore, and be holy, for I am holy. You shall not defile yourselves with any swarming thing that crawls on the ground. For I am the LORD who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy” (Leviticus 11:44-45, ESV). Just how are God’s holiness exhibited and, thereby, known? We find four ways the holiness of God is exhibited.

1. The holiness of God is exhibited through His EXCLUSIVITY (“the LORD;” Ex. 15:11).

 God, speaking through Moses, reminds everyone that “I am the LORD.”[1] The personal name for God is the Hebrew term “יהוה” (Yahweh). This personal name is normally translated by the all-caps term “LORD.” The personal name of God means literally “I am what I am.” Termed another way, it means “the self-existent One.” Moses inquires, “Who is like You among the gods, O LORD? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders” (Exodus 15:11)? The answer is, “no one.”

Norman Geisler defines holiness, theologically, as meaning that God is “totally and utterly set apart from all creation and evil.”[2] When we speak of God’s holiness, we are acknowledging the fact that He is the only one like Himself. He is the only One worthy of praise and worship. God’s holiness means that He is the ultimate in every way. It is for this reason that the angels proclaim, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God, the Almighty, who was and who is and who is to come” (Rev. 4:8).

I read a story of a minister who visited one of his members. The lady of the house tried to impress the pastor with her spiritual devotion by pointing out the large Bible on the bookshelf. Speaking in a reverential tone, she pointed to the Bible and said that she loved the book because it was the Word of God. Her young son interrupted the conversation and said, “If that’s God’s book we had better send it back to Him because we never read it.”

Often, we try to tell God what we want and how we want Him to work. However, when we understand the great holiness of God, we should simply say, “Here I am Lord, use me.” The exclusivity of God’s holiness ought to leave us in great awe and wonder.

 2. The holiness of God is exhibited through His EXALTATION (“your God;” Ps. 99:9; Isa. 5:16).

God says the He is the personal God of the people. The term “God” is translated from the Hebrew word “Elohim.” Elohim indicates one who is greatly powerful. It was sometimes used of a mighty ruler. Thus, God is not only the self-existent One, He is the exalted ruler. The psalmist writes, “Exalt the LORD our God and worship at His holy hill, for holy is the LORD our God” (Psalm 99:9). Isaiah also notes that “the LORD of hosts will be exalted in judgment, and the holy God will show Himself holy in righteousness” (Isa. 5:16). God is high and lifted up. God is exalted above every known person and creature.

My graduation from Liberty University was unlike anything I have ever seen. 19,432 graduates were in attendance along with 35,000 guests filling Williams Stadium on Saturday, May 14th, 2016. Throughout the service, people gave thanks to God for getting them to graduation. The group Sounds of Liberty sang the song “Just Say Amen.” People were standing with arms raised to God, exalting him, and giving God the praise that He deserves. In a way, it is a picture of the great exalting praise that will take place in heaven.

The exaltation of God’s holiness demands our worship and praise. We often think our problems are big. But when we give God the exaltation that He deserves, we find that God is much bigger than our problems.

 3. The holiness of God is exhibited through His ETHICAL PURITY (“I am holy;” 2 Cor. 7:1).

God reminds the people that he is holy. In this sense, God’s holiness refers to his ethical purity. Wayne Grudem notes that God’s holiness refers to God being “separated from sin and devoted to seeking his own honor.”[3] God’s holiness means that He is the absolute good.

When Grandpa died, Mom was at the hospital. I told her that she would not drive home as she had been awake for over 36 hours and was emotionally strained. While driving to the hospital, I had to set on the cruise control because I was tempted to drive faster than I should. But how did I know that I was breaking the law driving too fast? I did because I knew the law said that the particular stretch of highway was regulated at 65 miles per hour. I had to first know the law before I could know what it meant to break the law. In a similar sense, we must first know God’s goodness before we can know any aberrations from His goodness. Evil is the lack of good as it stems from the lack of God’s presence in one’s life.

God’s holiness means that He is the absolute good. There is no evil or not badness in God. God is absolutely pure. Because of God’s moral purity, we can trust that He has our best interests in mind. We can trust Him in His edicts and in His decrees. We can trust Him to do what’s right.

When we experience someone’s goodness, we should desire to work harder for such a person. When I worked public work, I had one boss who was very kind and another boss who was very cruel. For the nice boss, I worked extra hard. For the boss who was cruel, I only did what was necessary to do the task. As good as God has been to us, we should desire to work hard for Him. We should desire for this holy God to purify us and make us like Himself.

 4. The holiness of God is exhibited through His ELIMINATION OF SIN (“Consecrate yourselves;” Ps. 78:41; 2 Cor. 7:1).

God tells the people in Leviticus to “consecrate yourselves.” The phrase comes from the term “qadash.” Qadash means that one is set apart, devoted, and dedicated unto the Lord. God was in the process of giving the priests and the people means of setting themselves apart for the service of the Lord. Mark Rooker notes that Leviticus chapter 11 ends with a “final admonition to underscore the importance of distinguishing between the clean and the unclean. The reason the Israelites were to obey the dietary laws was that they were to be holy because they had been redeemed by God (11:45). This call to holiness is the climax of the chapter, for all the preceding contents of the chapter prepare for this final admonition.”[4]

God’s holiness is so that He cannot stand in the presence of sin. God’s holiness indicates that God is absolutely pure and holds no sin whatsoever. God must do something with sin. God will either purify sin or He will eliminate the sinner. God gives all of us the opportunity to receive Christ and to be purified. However, God’s atonement of our sins does not mean that He gives us a pass to continue in sin. Rather, it means that He forgives us our sins and purifies us of our sins. If you have received Christ and have not experienced a change in your life, then you really didn’t receive Him. When God enters a heart, He does not leave it as it is. He rearranges, transforms, and casts off those things which are not holy from our lives. Paul writes, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Cor. 7:1).

The story is told of a rather pompous-looking church leader was endeavoring to impress upon a class of boys the importance of living the Christian life. “Why do people call me a Christian?” the man asked. After a moment’s pause, one youngster said, “Maybe it’s because they don’t know you.”[5]

Evaluate your life. See if there is anything in your life that is causing you to stumble. If so, give it over to the Lord. We are to purify ourselves because we have been purified by a holy God.

 Conclusion:  I was challenged this past couple of weekends. Weekend before last, I was challenged by Dr. Ed Hindson, dean of the Liberty University School of Divinity. He said, “We have the ability to reach far more people than even the Apostle Paul did. When we stand before the Bema Seat of Christ (i.e., the Judgment Seat of Christ), what will we say when He asks us, ‘What did you do with the resources I gave you?’ We are obligated to reach individuals for Christ with all the resources given to us. This past weekend, we celebrated the legacy of my grandfather, Odell Sisk. Altogether, God was showing me that we have a great ministry to do while on planet Earth. God is a holy God. We are to be a holy people. Will we make an impact for God?

 

© May 20, 2016. Brian Chilton.

 

[1] Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the New American Standard Bible (La Habra, CA: Lockman, 1995).

[2] Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011), 566.

[3] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998), 202.

[4] Mark F. Rooker, Leviticus, vol. 3A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 180.

[5] Evie Megginson, “A Rather Pompous-looking Deacon…,” SermonCentral.com (March 2001), retrieved May 20, 2016, http://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-evie-megginson-humor-holiness-loveofthedisciples-apologeticsgeneral-1977.asp.

Qualities of God’s Mercy (Numbers 14:18-19)

Nearly all of us have heard the song Great is Thy Faithfulness. The hymn states, “Great is thy faithfulness. Great is thy faithfulness. Morning to morning new mercies I see. All I have needed thy hand hath provided. Great Is thy Faithfulness Lord unto me.” Unlike some other hymns, this hymn is not the result of some tragic event in Thomas Chisholm’s life but a powerful witness to his daily walk with Jesus as he experienced “morning by morning” new mercies from His Everlasting Father. Pastor Chisholm always trusted his Everlasting Father to take care of him, sustain him, and provide for his daily needs. Just before his death in 1960 he wrote this power, personal witness: “My income has never been large at any time due to impaired health in the earlier years which has followed me on until now. But I must not fail to record here the unfailing faithfulness of a covenant keeping God and that He has given me many wonderful displays of His providing care which have filled me with astonishing gratefulness.”[1] Chisholm’s hymn demonstrates not only the great faithfulness of God, but also the great mercy of God. Chisholm’s health would have failed him much earlier if it were not for the mercy of God. Chisholm realized that he was being sustained by the mercy of God.

We have spoken about the grace of God. Grace was defined as “giving someone something that they do not deserve.” Mercy is quite the opposite. Wayne Grudem defines mercy as “God’s goodness toward those in misery and distress.”[2] In other words, mercy is not giving someone something that they deserve. Some have asked whether mercy is an attribute or an activity. Norman Geisler has stated that “Regardless of whether mercy is itself an attribute or an activity of God, it is deeply rooted in His unchangeable nature. As such, it reveals something extremely important about God’s character.”[3]

1. The mercy of God has the quality of PATIENCE (14:18a).

 Moses acknowledges in his prayer the patience of God as he says “the LORD is slow to anger.”[4] Moses had witnessed God’s great mercy in demonstrating patience in times past. Moses was asking for the same as the people had rebelled against the Lord. People were exclaiming, “We would have been better off in Egypt!”

It’s interesting to note the difference between the lack of patience from the people and the overwhelming patience of God. Remember, mercy means NOT giving someone something that they deserve. Did the people deserve a divine pop in the nose? Yes! However, God demonstrated mercy by his patience. What if God acted to us the way the people acted to God? Would they have been afforded the opportunity to enter the Promised Land? No!

2. The mercy of God has the quality of KINDNESS (14:18b).

Moses continues with his prayer noting that God has “abundant lovingkindness.” This phrase comes from two Hebrew words “rab” and “chesed.” The word rab means “mighty, “strong, or even “numerous.” Chesed means “lovingkindess” that has its root in one’s mercy. Thus, one could say that kindness is rooted in mercy. Moses was pleading for the kindness of God.

Let’s think this over. God had great mercy on the Hebrews keeping them from the plagues inflicted on the Egyptians. God had mercy on the Hebrews allowing them to cross through the Red Sea on dry ground. God had mercy on them by giving them manna from heaven. God had mercy on them leading them into the Promised Land. God had shown nothing but mercy to the Hebrews. Yet, still the Hebrews rebelled against God. Perhaps the problem was not so much with God’s mercy, but with the gratitude of God’s people.

3. The mercy of God has the quality of JUSTNESS (14:18d).

Moses was praying for God’s mercy. But, Moses also realized that there would be some who would not repent no matter how much grace was extended to them.  As we learn earlier in the chapter, many were saying, “Why is the LORD bringing us into this land, to fall by the sword? Our wives and our little ones will become plunder; would it not be better for us to return to Egypt” (14:3)? What was the real sin? The writers of the New Bible Commentary note that “The Lord’s word begins with an accurate analysis of Israel’s sin—it is unbelief.”[5]

Three things can be said about the justness of mercy. 1) Isn’t it amazing that the people, who could not save themselves, thought that they knew better than the One who delivered them? Some people claim that God is unjust for sending people to hell, while at the same time accusing God for allowing evil to go unpunished. The same people will accuse God for not revealing himself to the world, while at the same time accuse God of foolishness for revealing himself on earth as Jesus of Nazareth. God’s mercy is extended, but his mercy does not force the obstinate and those who refuse to repent.

2) It was G. K. Chesterton who said, “Suppose we were puzzled to hear that some men said he was too tall and some too short; some objected to his fatness, some lamented his leanness; some thought him too dark, and some too fair. One explanation (as has been already admitted) would be that he might be an odd shape. But there is another explanation. He might be the right shape.”[6]

3) God is not unjust for sending unrepentant people to hell. God is merciful to allow anyone to go to heaven. It would be unjust of God to allow unrepentant people to enter into heaven.

4. The mercy of God has the quality of FORGIVENESS (14: 18c, 19).

Moses pleads with God to forgive the repentant. Moses played the part of a lawyer. Moses argued: “If the Lord wiped out the nation, it would reflect more on His character than on the character of rebellious Israel. His inability to fulfill His promise to bring this people into the promised land would negatively impact His reputation if He carried out His plan to destroy the nation. Moses, however, knew that the Lord could not let this rebellion go unpunished.”[7] Of course, God knew this all along. Thus, Moses pleaded for God to show mercy through his forgiving nature.

 Mercy is at the heart of forgiveness. People really only hold two options when they are offended: they can hold grudges and seek revenge, or they can forgive giving the people over to God. But really, if we consider all for which God has forgiven us, it should be no big issue to forgive others. Jesus says quite bluntly, “If you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions” (Matthew 6:15). When we hold on to bitterness, we really in the end only hurt ourselves anyhow.  

A medieval story captures the manner in which bitterness holds us a prisoner. Long ago, two monks were traveling and approached an unusually rough river. Standing alone on the bank was a woman who approached the monks and asked if they could help her across so she could return home to her family. Knowing it was forbidden to touch a woman, one monk quickly looked the other way, ignoring her request for help. The other monk, feeling compassion for the desperate lady, decided to bend the rules. Breaking tradition, he lifted her into his arms and carried her safely across the rushing water. Exceedingly grateful, the lady thanked the helpful monk and left for home. The two monks continued on their journey. After miles of silence, the first monk finally said with disgust, “I can’t believe you picked up that woman! You know we’re never supposed to touch the opposite sex.” The compassionate monk replied, “I put her down miles ago, yet you still carry her in your heart.” God grants us mercy by his forgiveness. By God’s mercy, we are afforded the opportunity to forgive others as well.

Conclusion: A little boy named Johnny and his sister Sally stayed at their grandparents’ house for a week during the summer. Johnny had just received a brand new slingshot. However, Johnny wasn’t a good shot. His grandma called him in for supper. Frustrated, Johnny took a shot at his grandma’s pet duck. However, this time he hit the duck in the head and killed it dead. Johnny panicked. He took the duck’s corpse and hid it under a bush. His sister Sally had watched the whole thing. She said to him, “You’d better do what I say or I’ll tell Grandma.” So, the next day after lunch, Grandma said, “Sally, I need you to help with the dishes.” Sally said, “Johnny wants to do it.” Sally looked at Johnny and whispered, “Remember the duck.” Grandpa said to the children, “Let’s go fishing at the pond.” Grandma said, “I need Sally to help with supper.” Sally said, “Johnny wants to help.” She looked at Johnny and whispered, “Remember the duck.” After a few days of being Sally’s slave, doing chores, and obeying her every whim, he confessed to Grandma. Grandma said, “Honey, I was standing at the window when you accidently shot the duck. I forgave you then and there. I was just wondering how long you were going to be Sally’s slave.[8] The grace of God gives us heaven. But it is by the mercy of God that we are forgiven, transformed, and changed. If God has had mercy on you, remember you are a changed individual. Don’t be enslaved by the Devil’s reminders of your past. In life fashion, if you have received the mercy of God, demonstrate that same mercy unto others.

 

© April 29, 2016. Brian Chilton. Published May 5, 2016.

Notes

[1] Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1990), 366

[2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 200.

[3] Norman Geisler, Systematic Theology (Minneapolis: Bethany, 2011), 595.

[4] Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the New American Standard Bible (La Habra, CA: Lockman Foundation, 1995).

[5] D. A. Carson, et. al., The New Bible Commentary (Liecester, UK: Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship, 1994), Logos Bible Softward.

[6] G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy (New York: SnowBall Classics Publishing, 2015), 57

[7] Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham, eds, The Moody Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Bible Publishers, 2014), 234.

[8] Adapted from the story given by Ellen Klinke, “The Duck and the Devil,” SermonIllustrationLibrary.org (May 3, 2006), retrieved April 29, 2016, http://www.sermonillustrationlibrary.org/illustration56.

9 Questions the Bible Answers About Creation

Morgan Freeman and the National Geographic Channel presented the fourth installment of the series The Story of God: The Story of Us this past Sunday. The series investigates various issues from the perspective of a wide array of religious perspectives. The episode presented nine questions as it pertains to the biblical account of creation and creation in general. This article will seek to answer those nine questions.

  1. Did a historical Adam and Eve exist?

One of the questions presented in Freeman’s documentary pertained to the historicity of Adam and Eve. Were Adam and Eve simply allegorical individuals or did they literally exist in space-time? While I can appreciate this debate, I feel the answer is fairly straight-forward. Adam and Eve were historical individuals. Why? Well, I feel there are three reasons to accept their historicity.

One, Adam and Eve’s historicity is a logical necessity. From sheer necessity, a person should see the validity in accepting an original human couple. For instance, my existence is contingent upon the necessity of my mother and father’s existence. Their existence is contingent upon the necessity of my grandparents’ existence. Continue the pattern back far enough and you can deduce the necessity of the first two homo-sapiens.

Two, Adam and Eve’s historicity is a scientific discovery. By scientific discovery, I am not claiming that scientists have found the remains of Adam and Eve. Rather, I am claiming that studies of the human DNA have shown that acceptance of Adam and Eve’s historicity is a tenable or you could say valid. Biochemist Fazale Rana states the following,

“More recent work (published in 2002) highlights this unusual genetic unity. A comparison of 377 DNA regions for 1,056 individuals from 52 different population groups found that 93 to 95 percent of the (small) genetic variation occurs within all populations and only 3 to 5 percent of the genetic variability occurs between populations.

What do these finds indicate about humanity’s natural history? Molecular anthropologists pose what they sometimes call the ‘Garden-of-Eden-hypothesis’ to explain the limited genetic diversity. This model maintains that humanity had a recent origin in a single location and the original population size must have been quite small. From this one location, humanity expanded rapidly to occupy all the geographical regions of the planet (emphasis mine).”[1]

Sounds pretty familiar, huh?

Third, one should accept the historicity of Adam and Eve due to the biblical mandate. The Bible clearly teaches that Adam and Eve were historical individuals especially as it pertains to the entrance of sin into the human equation. Much more could be said about this matter. Perhaps we should depart from this issue at the moment and pick it up in a later article.

  1. When was the book of Genesis written?

 Morgan Freeman claimed that the book of Genesis was only 2,500 years old. This would place the Book of Genesis as having been written at about 500 B.C. Yet, it appears that Genesis is much older than Freeman’s date. Good reasons exist to believe that Moses wrote most, if not all, of Genesis. It is quite conceivable that “Moses probably wrote the Pentateuch during the Israelites’ 40-year sojourn in the wilderness (c. 1446-1406 BC), completing the literary work shortly before his death (see Deut. 33     :1). The dating of the Pentateuch is derived from dates mentioned in 1 Kings 6:1.”[2] Thus, the date of the work is tied to the author. While the work does not mention the author’s identity, early “and reliable tradition has ascribed the authorship to Moses; and it is a fact that throughout the Pentateuchal narratives it is Moses who is most closely associated with the writing of the material contained in the Pentateuch (Ex. 17:14; 20:1; cf. also Joshua 8:31-32).”[3] Thus, Genesis is much older than what the documentary purported.

  1. Was the Garden of Eden a metaphor or a literal place?

It only stands to reason that if Adam and Eve were literal people (see question 1) then Eden must have been a literal place, as well.

  1. Where was Eden?

This is a hot topic. Genesis indicates that Eden was somewhere in what is known as Mesopotamia. We read that the “LORD God planted a garden toward the east, in Eden; and there He placed the man whom He had formed…Now a river flowed out of Eden to water the garden; and from there it divided and became four rivers” (Genesis 2:8, 10).[4] The text seems to indicate that Eden was somewhere around the Middle East. However, some studies indicate that humans may have originated out of Africa. Many scholars admit that the world has changed dramatically over the course of human history (i.e., the Flood, etc.). Thus, it is difficult to pinpoint the exact location of Eden. Even if Eden is demonstrated to be in Mesopotamia and if humanity is demonstrated to have come from Africa, there need not be a discrepancy since “Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden. So humanity’s population growth began outside the garden’s confines.”[5] To be fair, we cannot say with certainty where Eden was located. The best we can do is speculate.

  1. Can science and the Bible find harmony as it pertains to creation?

Yes! I have argued this several times before on this website. There is no discrepancy between the creation account found in the Bible and the origins of the universe. One is not forced to choose between science OR the Bible, rather one can accept science AND the Bible. The words “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1) is completely harmonious with the idea that the universe came into existence.

  1. Does science negate belief in God?

Absolutely not! Science can never disprove God since God is a logical necessity for the existence of any thing.

  1. Does God need a creator?

Freeman said that he struggled with the idea of where God came from. Who created God? However, Freeman misunderstands the concept of God. Freeman is corrected by Father Tanzella Niti corrects Freeman in the documentary. God is the first mover. God is the uncaused cause. Thus, God needs no creator. Something must be eternal: either the universe or God. The universe cannot be eternal, thus there is a necessity for an eternal God. Worded another way, the kalam cosmological argument states 1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause. 2) The universe began to exist. 3) Therefore, the universe must have a cause. That cause must be eternal, conscious, all-powerful, all-knowing, and beyond the scope of space-time. Sounds a lot like God, huh?

  1. Was there one creation or a multitude of creations?

Has God created other things beyond the scope of humanity and the universe? Yes. God created angelic beings before creating the universe. However, as far as we can answer, there is only one created universe that we know about. Paul mentions being taken to a “third heaven” (2 Cor. 12:2). This third heaven represents a place beyond the universe and earth’s atmosphere. So, I feel that there are entities beyond the scope of this universe. However, I do not think that one can, at this time, accept the idea of a multiverse or a multiplicity of universes.

  1. Is creation ultimately beyond our understanding?

Yes. We can know certain things about our creation, but we cannot understand everything. Some things are indeed beyond our understanding. We cannot even understand everything there is to know about God. As Norman Geisler has noted, “we can apprehend God, but never comprehend God.”[6] Such is a good place to end our present inquiry. Luckily, we can know certain things about our creation and our Creator from the revealed truths given to us from the Creator.

 

© April 25, 2016. Brian Chilton.

[1] Fazale Rana, Who Was Adam? A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of Humanity (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2015), 63-64.

[2] Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham, eds, The Moody Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Bible Publishers, 2014), 26.

[3] Kenneth L. Barker and John R. Kohlenberger, III, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Old Testament, abridged ed (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 1.

[4] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the New American Standard Bible (La Habra, CA: Lockman Foundation, 1995).

[5] Rana, Who was Adam?, 65.

[6] Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology: In One Volume (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011), 529.

4 Ways that God is Grand (Psalm 27)

Scott Kelly recently broke a record for the longest time in space. Kelly spent 12 months in space. Kelly went on record saying, “It’s not as fun as you might think it would be. It’s a type 2 kind of fun—a fun that occurs when it’s over.” Kelly went on to say, “The views, especially from space walks, are spectacular. The colors are more vivid than you ever expect.” Kelly also said something that many others who have traveled in space have said, “The more I travel in space, the more I feel like an environmentalist. It’s just a blanket of pollution in certain areas, something that we can correct if we put our minds to it.” Many astronauts have said, “When I see the earth from space, I see just how special our planet is. We need to take care of it. We also need to take care of each other.” Many who have traveled in space have noted how seeing the grandeur of the earth changes their perspective.

In similar regard, when we acknowledge the grandeur of God, our perspectives change greatly, as well. In the 27th psalm, David expresses his confidence in God’s protection even while facing his enemies. Due to David’s “reference to war (v. 3), and the concept of sonship (v. 10) favor this as a royal psalm.”[1] Some have called this a ““A Prayer of Praise.”[2] As we speak of the grandeur of God, we see at least 4 ways that God is grand.

1. The grandeur of God’s BEAUTY (27:4-5).

In verses 4-5, David notes the grandeur of God’s beauty. David petitions God, saying, “One thing I ask from the LORD, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the LORD and to seek him in his temple” (24:4).[3] Notice that David uses four words in verses 4-6 “house,” “temple,” “dwelling,” and “sacred tent” “to affirm that wherever God chooses to reveal himself, that is where he wants to be.”[4] David wants to observe more of the beauty of God.

But what do we mean when we speak of the “beauty of God?” Does this simply mean that God is pleasing to the eyes and senses? Actually, it means much more. Norman Geisler defines God’s beauty as “the essential attribute of goodness that produces in the beholder a sense of overwhelming pleasure and delight.”[5] Wayne Grudem defines God’s beauty as “that attribute of God whereby he is the sum of all desirable qualities [sic].”[6] This is the positive side of God’s goodness. That is, God’s goodness is something that we should desire, something we should crave. Paul writes that the beauty of God, found in Christ, was given “to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless” (Ephesians 5:27). People crave beautiful things. However, we often crave the baser desires of physical beauty or materialism. True beauty is found in goodness. True goodness is found in God. Therefore, God is true beauty.

2. The grandeur of God’s PERFECTION (27:1-3, 13).

In verses 1-3, David addresses God’s perfection by way of his trust in God. In verse 1, David writes that “The LORD is my light and my salvation” (27:1). Bratcher and Reyburn note that “Only here in the Old Testament is Yahweh called my light; this means he is the source of life and vitality.”[7] The Moody Bible Commentary notes that “the word light [sic] here, as elsewhere in the OT, is a metaphor for comprehensive salvation, spiritual and physical, both present and eternal.”[8] In verses 2-3 and also in verse 13, David continues to express his trust in God because he knew God was perfect and could be trusted.

When we speak of perfection, we are acknowledging another aspect of God’s grandeur which complements the aspect of God’s beauty. Whereas beauty is the positive aspect of God’s grandeur and goodness (being that he is something that is to be desired), God’s perfection is the negative aspect of God’s grandeur and goodness (being that he holds no flaws whatsoever). Grudem states that “God’s perfection means that God completely possesses all excellent qualities and lacks no part of any qualities that would be desirable for him.”[9] God holds no character flaws. God holds no weaknesses. God can be trusted because he is the ultimate good. When we experience the presence of God, we should crave God’s presence much as did David. Do we have the same desire to be where God is?

3. The grandeur of God’s MAJESTY (27:6-12; Isaiah 6:1-7).

In verses 6-12, David expresses his trust that he would be “exalted above the enemies who surround me” (27:6). David’s heart sought to seek God (27:8). While David primarily speaks of his confidence in God, one could argue that David placed his trust in God’s ability to protect him because of the great majesty of God. The prophet Isaiah described the majesty of God the best that he could in Isaiah 6:1-7. He portrays God as “high and lifted up” (Isaiah 6:1).

When we speak of the majesty of God, we are saying, as Norman Geisler notes, that “God’s majesty consists of unsurpassed greatness, highest eminence, unparalleled exaltation, and unmatched glory.”[10] God’s majesty is associated with his honor and strength (1 Chronicles 16:27), God’s greatness and power in (1 Chronicles 29:11), and so on. Majesty is rooted in beauty and splendor. Who looks at a pile of mud and says, “Oh, how majestic”? Rather, one observes the tranquil ocean, a rugged mountain peak, a vividly colorful flower, a mighty animal, or a distant galaxy and say, “Oh how majestic!” Rather than provide the “ooo’s” and “ahh’s” that accompany many of the physical observations of beauty, we should provide wholehearted praise to the majestic God when we observe and acknowledge his grand beauty.

4. The grandeur of God’s INEFFABILITY (27:13-14; Deut. 29:29; Job 11:7: Isa. 55:8).

This characteristic is not so much an attribute of God as much as it is our limitations in fully understanding the grandeur of God. David understood that there were some things that he could not fully comprehend. While he was facing his enemies, he did not know why he must face them. Also, he did not know what would take place. However, David could still say, “I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD” (27:13-14). As the commentators of the Moody Bible Commentary noted, this “does not indicate passivity or inaction, but rather trust and confident anticipation that [God] will take action.”[11]

 The term “ineffability” literally means “incapable of being expressed.”[12] When we speak of the ineffability of God, we are acknowledging the presence of mystery as it relates to God. Mystery does not indicate a paradox (something that is a logical fallacy or logically inconsistent). Rather, again as Geisler notes, mystery is “something that does not go against reason, but beyond reason.”[13] The trinity is not something that is logically flawed and goes against reason. Rather, the trinity is something that is difficult to explain and goes beyond the capacities of reason. We should expect such things with the Creator of the universe.

There are many things in life that we cannot know. God can be apprehended (that is, we can know certain things about God), but God can never be fully comprehended (that is, understanding every detail about God). But that’s okay. We can answer many questions about God. But, there are many questions that are beyond our comprehension. For instance: why does God take a good person in the prime of his life while he allows an evil person to live many years? Why does God allow bad parents to have children while many good parents are unable to have children? Why did God allow my grandfather to take his life? Why is my godly grandmother lying in a nursing home with the horrible disease of Alzheimer’s? While I do think that there are answers to these questions, you and I can never fully comprehend why. But what I have found is that if we can trust God in the things that are knowable, then we can trust God in the things that are unknowable.

So what can we take from this?

  1. God’s beauty means that his goodness is to be desired. Have you ever recalled a time of great purity and goodness? I recall it with my time spent with my grandparents as they were people of faith. Contrast that with a time where you were in sin. Sin makes one feel dirty. Seek out the beauty of God!
  2. God’s perfection means that he holds no flaws and serves as a perfect example for you. While we have heroes in this life of whom we try to emulate, the only perfect example is that of God. Be mature as God is mature.
  3. God’s majesty means that he is highly exalted and worthy of praise. The natural response of viewing a majesty scene of nature is to exclaim “Oooo! Ahhh!” The natural response of exposure to God’s majesty is that of total and complete worship. God is majestic and worthy to be praised!
  4. God’s ineffability means that we while we may apprehend some aspects of God, we will never fully comprehend God. Relish in God’s mysteries. If you are like me, you want to know. It nearly drove me crazy trying to figure out how God’s sovereignty fits in with human freedom. I finally had to settle for congruism which acknowledges that both divine sovereignty and human freedom mysteriously coexist. It’s okay not to know everything about God. In fact, it’s impossible that you would ever understand God completely. God is God and you are not. So, do as David did. Trust God despite your lack of divine comprehension.

 

© April 5, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Notes

[1] Kenneth L. Barker and John R. Kohlenberger, III, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: New Testament, Abridged ed (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 828.

[2] Robert G. Bratcher and William David Reyburn, A Translator’s Handbook on the Book of Psalms, UBS Handbook Series (New York: United Bible Societies, 1991), 261.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the New International Version (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011).

[4] D. A. Carson, et. al., eds, NIV Zondervan Study Bible (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2015), 1010.

[5] Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology: In One Volume (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011), 526.

[6] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 219.

[7] Bratcher and Reyburn, A Translator’s Handbook on the Book of Psalms, 261.

[8] Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham, eds, The Moody Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Bible Publishers, 2014), 784.

[9] Grudem, ST, 218.

[10] Geisler, ST, 524.

[11] Rydelnik and Vanlaningham, eds, The Moody Bible Commentary, 785.

[12] Geisler, ST, 528.

[13] Ibid., 530.

The Correlation of God’s Response and the Theodicy Problem of Job

The book of Job is, for most, the quintessential source for dealing with the problem of righteous suffering.[1] Why do the righteous suffer? This is a question that countless individuals have posited throughout the ages. The psalmist asked God “Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression” (Psalm 44:24)?[2] The majority of Job’s text is an exchange between Job and four friends: “Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite…Zophar the Naamathite” (Job 2:11)[3] along with the later friend “Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite, of the family of Ram” (32:2). However, the climax of the book comes when God “answered Job out of the whirlwind” (38:1, NASB).[4] This paper will argue that God’s response provides distinctive theological aspects which in turn offer insights to the overall message of Job. To defend this thesis, the paper will evaluate two distinct theological perspectives stemming from God’s response to Job. Then, the paper will evaluate how two implicit aspects of God’s response relates to the overall message found in Job.

The Theological Aspects of God’s Response

 The best way to learn about God is through the direct revelation of God. Chapters 38 through 42 provide God’s direct revelation to Job. Up until this point, Job had been conversing with four so-called friends. These friends did not offer much support as it relates to Job’s suffering. Now, Job finds himself confronted with God in the midst of a whirlwind and begins to converse with God, although Job does more listening than speaking at this stage. James E. Smith denotes that “Instead of answering questions from Job, God fired the questions—over seventy—at him! God was not on the witness stand. Job was, and he was subjected to intensive cross examination.”[5] In God’s cross-examination of Job, God provides four distinct theological attributes. Robert Alden denotes that “of the attributes of God, the ones that stand out in the Book of Job are sovereignty, omnipotence, omniscience, and justice.”[6] God’s omniscience and omnipotence stand as two major theological themes, whereas divine sovereignty and divine justice are two more implicit attributes found within God’s response. Omniscience and omnipotence will be examined in this section, whereas God’s implicit attributes are tied with the overall themes of the book and, thus, will be evaluated in the forthcoming section.

The Aspect of God’s Omniscience

Concerning omniscience, Norman Geisler writes, “Historically, the omniscience of God was a straightforward doctrine: God knows everything—past, present, and future; He knows the actual and the possible; only the impossible (contradictory) is outside the knowledge of God.”[7] Yahweh provides two addresses to Job. Yahweh’s first address, found in 38:1-42:6, demonstrates the great omniscience that he possesses and, as Barker and Kohlenberger denote, that “neither the counselors nor Job possessed complete knowledge…[showing] how very limited human knowledge is.”[8] Yahweh begins his prosecution of Job with the words “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge” (38:2)? Yahweh did not provide a response to Job’s queries, but instead pointed Job back to the acknowledgement that he had been accusing the One who had limitless knowledge. Yahweh provides two limitations upon Job’s knowledge in demonstrating the omniscience of his own.

First, Yahweh acknowledges his omniscience as it relates to time. Yahweh directly asks Job, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation” (38:4)? Alden denotes that “Unlike personified Wisdom, who was present at the creation (Prov 8:22–31), Job was a creature of time. When God “laid the earth’s foundation,” Job simply was not yet born…Job could not answer because he was not there and could not know.”[9] One finds a connection between the Logos of John 1:1, the Wisdom denoted in Proverbs 8:22-31, and Yahweh’s message to Job in 38:4. While Job did not understand the circumstances, Yahweh reminded Job that he did. Yahweh also addresses not only the limitation of time pertaining to Job’s knowledge and the superiority of his own knowledge, but Yahweh also addresses another limitation of human knowledge.

In addition, Yahweh introduces Job’s limitation of knowledge as it relates to creation. Yahweh demonstrates Job’s finite understanding of the working of geology in 38:4-18, cosmology in 38:19-38, and biology in 38:39-39:30. While Yahweh distinguishes the nature of particular animals (e.g. the ostrich in 39:13-18) and the structure of particular constellations (e.g. Pleiades and Orion in 38:31-32); the core essential doctrine provided is discovered in Yahweh’s question to Job in saying “Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it” (38:5)? Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas indicate that verses 4-6 of chapter 38 view the cosmos in the “terms of a temple, and the temple was understood to represent a microcosmos. Here the most important elements in building the temple are referred to in God’s setting up the cosmos.”[10] Yahweh intended to demonstrate the limited knowledge of humanity compared to his limitless knowledge. While modern individuals have access to greater understandings as to the workings of nature around them, humans are still vastly limited in their knowledge. Scientific discoveries and theories are constructed only to be constantly uprooted. As Harry Hunt denotes, “The human mind cannot control all knowledge or understand all situations.”[11] God in his infinite knowledge poses no theories or hypotheses as it relates to creation; rather, God has limitless knowledge of how things exist and will exist. While Job did not understand the workings of the tragedies around him, God did. Yahweh demonstrates another personal attribute: that of power.

The Aspect of God’s Omnipotence

Norman Geisler defines omnipotence as meaning that “God has unlimited power (omni=all; potent=powerful)…Theologically, omnipotent means that God can do whatever is possible to do. Or, God can do what is not impossible to do.”[12] Millard Erickson adds that omnipotence means “that God is able to do all things that are proper objects of his power.”[13]In Yahweh’s[14] response to Job, one finds clear evidence of the divine attribute of omnipotence. This section of the paper will evaluate two examples of divine omnipotence through Yahweh’s address to Job.

First, the theophanic presentation through the whirlwind demonstrates the omnipotence of God. Job possesses multiple references to the whirlwind. The NIV translates 38:1 as “the storm.” However, the NASB more accurately translates the verse as “the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind” (38:1, NASB). The whirlwind, or storm, finds itself in several passages within the text of Job. Job’s children were killed when “a mighty wind swept in from the desert and struck the four corners of the house” (1:19). The term “wind” is used in 6:26; 8:2; 9:17; 15:2; 21:18; 27:21; 28:25; 30:15, 22; 37:9, 17, 21; and 38:24. The term “storm” is used in 9:17; 30:22; 36:33; 40:6; and with “whirlwind” (NASB) in 38:1. It is intriguing that Yahweh appeared to Job in a storm. Job’s family and wealth were destroyed by elements from a storm. Job even indicates that God would “crush me with a storm and multiply my wounds for no reason” (9:17). Alex Luc, describing Job’s use of the storm in describing his pain, notes that “The fearful and destructive power of the storm makes it the most powerful vehicle to describe Job’s pain.”[15] Yet, here Yahweh arrives shrouded in a storm. Through this imagery, one finds God’s great omnipotent strength. The storm motif will be noted again in the paper. Omnipotence is demonstrated in another means.

In the second discourse given to Job, Yahweh notes his great power over creation. Barker and Kohlenberger denote that the “purpose goes beyond showing Job that God is creator and sustainer of the natural world. It is to convince Job that God is Lord also of the moral order.”[16] Throughout the second discourse, Yahweh demonstrates his omnipotence through the examples of the Leviathan and the Behemoth. The identities of the Leviathan (41:1) and the Behemoth (40:15) have been the center of a great deal of speculation and debate. Considering the identity of the Behemoth, Alden postulates that the “hippopotamus has been the most popular identification for the ‘behemoth,’ with the elephant a distant second.”[17] Some interpreters have even posited a dinosaur of sorts. However, Walton, Matthews, and Chavalas denote that “Early intertestamental interpretation favors a mythical/supernatural identification.”[18] Comparably, the Leviathan is, according to Carson, “thought to be a dolphin, a tunny fish or a whale, but the general view is that it is a crocodile.”[19] If Barker and Kohlenberger present a tantalizing view that due to the placement of the beastly duo after the “assertions of the Lord’s justice and maintenance of moral order, lends weight to the contention that they are symbolic, though their features are drawn from animals.”[20] Barker and Kohlenberger are correct, then the Leviathan and Behemoth represent “evil political powers”[21]

Whether Yahweh indicates evil political forces, ferocious animals found in the here and now, dinosaurs that coexisted with humanity, or mythological beings known to Job and the people of his time with the Leviathan and Behemoth; the underlying belief is that God had the power to subdue Leviathan and Behemoth, whereas humanity remained incapable of doing the same. Therefore, Yahweh is merited trust due to his overwhelming power. Whereas the current section has evaluated the two underlying theological attributes presented in Yahweh’s address to Job, the forthcoming section will consider the two fundamental correlations as it pertains to the overall theme of Job.

 The Correlation of God’s Response, Attributes, and the Overall Message of Suffering

 What is the central message of Job? Many hold that the problem of theodicy is the primary theme. However, Andrew E. Steinmann argues that the central message is not about theodicy at all. Steinmann postulates that the following:

 We can only conclude that Job’s main message revolves around the subject of faith and integrity, not the theodicy of suffering. In the view of the author of Job, trust in God precludes questions of theodicy. Indeed, they are irrelevant. All that is relevant is trust that God can sustain a righteous person’s integrity and faith throughout the most severe crises.[22]

Whereas it is conceded that Steinmann is correct in assuming that the book of Job demonstrates the sustenance of one’s faith within periods of suffering and misery, one finds it difficult to bypass the countless scholars who have confirmed the presence of theodicy as a theme in the book of Job. Brooks and Neal denote,

 The book of Job deals directly with the subject of theodicy. The Israelites believed a doctrine known as retributional theology, in which sin resulted in punishment…The subsequent narrative of Job and his interactions with friends presents the classic problem of theodicy: How can a good, all-knowing God allow evil to happen to someone as upright as Job?[23]

By the response of Yahweh, one can rightly demonstrate two theses promoted throughout the entirety of Job. However, it could be argued that Yahweh provides a working answer to the problem of theodicy. The previous section noted two major theological points made in Yahweh’s discourse. While the attributes of omniscience and omnipotence are the general themes of the discourse, one will find moral and non-moral attributes of God illuminated in chapters 38 through 42. Through the moral and non-moral attributes of God, one will find an answer to the problem of theodicy in that God may allow suffering for particular purposes known to God. This section will evaluate how the moral and non-moral attributes of God tie into the aspect that suffering has purpose.

Purpose of Trials through God’s Moral Attributes

Throughout the conversations with Job’s so-called friends, Job had accused God of wrongdoing. After being insulted by his friends, Job accused God in saying “If indeed you vaunt yourselves against me and prove my disgrace to me, know then that God has wronged me and has closed his net around me” (19:5-6, NASB). Had Yahweh truly entrapped Job for no reason? Yahweh’s response demonstrates a major thesis postulated throughout the text in that a purpose exists to human suffering. While Steinmann holds that the major theme of Job is that of human faith, Steinmann concedes that the first of Job’s “two-pronged approach to theodicy…was a rationalist’s explanation of God’s actions.”[24] While Steinmann holds that explicit answers are not provided in Job, in which this writer would concede, it must be noted that Yahweh indirectly provides generalized responses to the theodicy problem. Yahweh demonstrates that a purpose tends to exist in trials. Yahweh inquires of Job, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you, and you instruct Me” (38:2-3, NASB)! Smith denotes that the “word ‘counsel’ suggests that the Lord has a plan or meaning in Job’s afflictions.”[25] How is this hypothesis developed? Whereby Yahweh does not demonstrate specifics behind Job’s suffering, Yahweh does demonstrate that trials may have a purpose due to two moral attributes that Yahweh possesses.[26]

First, trials may have purpose if Yahweh is a just God. In many ways, Job felt slighted by God. Job had lost everything. Job inquires “how often is the lamp of the wicked snuffed out? How often does calamity come upon them, the fate God allots in his anger” (21:17). Luc denotes that Job’s “complaint implies that he is treated more oppressively than the wicked: that which rarely happens to the wicked is happening to him.”[27]Yahweh responds by noting that Job should “look on everyone who is proud, and humble him, and tread down the wicked where they stand” (40:12-13, NASB). Here, Yahweh implies his just nature in summoning, as Alden states, “Job to look for ‘every proud man’ and appropriately ‘humble him.’”[28] That is to say, Job did not have the capacity to see all the evil in the world nor did he have the capacity to judge accordingly. Therefore, Job’s trials were not for naught. Rather, Yahweh was not unjust for allowing such an event to transpire. But why? The text does not state the purpose for Job’s suffering, but that Job should trust Yahweh’s just nature. Yahweh could see all things whereas Job could not. Yahweh demonstrated that there are purposes for one’s trials and sufferings by another moral attribute of God, as well.

Along with God’s just nature, Yahweh demonstrates that suffering holds purpose due to God’s goodness. Yahweh’s response demonstrates the great concern and compassion that Yahweh has for all creatures. Yahweh inquires of Job, “Who prepares for the raven its nourishment when its young cry to God and wander about without food” (38:41, NASB)? One may note a parallel with Jesus’ teaching in that one should “look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they” (Matthew 6:26, NASB)? Yahweh demonstrates his concern for Job and all creatures. Therefore, suffering and trials must have a purpose if such are permitted by a good God.

Through the two moral attributes provided by Yahweh in the preceding section, one may note that suffering can hold a purpose if God is morally just and good. However, God may be good and just; but if God did not possess particular non-moral attributes, then God would become powerless to deliver a particular end.

Purpose of Trials through God’s Non-moral Attributes

Yahweh also demonstrated the purpose of trials through his non-moral attributes. Non-moral attributes describe the abilities of God. John S. Feinberg defines God’s non-moral attributes as “natural attributes belong to God’s very constitutional nature apart from his actions.”[29] God possesses many non-moral attributes. God’s omniscience and omnipotence, which were addressed primarily in God’s response, are considered to be two of God’s non-moral attributes. Nevertheless, Yahweh’s application of his non-moral attributes provides two features pertaining to the purpose of a person’s suffering.

The first non-moral attribute of God is exhibited in Yahweh’s response which demonstrates that suffering can have a purpose; that attribute is wisdom. Wisdom is slightly different than knowledge. Wisdom is defined as “practical skills associated with understanding and living a successful life.”[30] Termed another way: wisdom is knowing how to use information to bring about good ends, or applied knowledge. If God is wise, then God knows how to bring about good through even the worst of times. Alex Luc denotes that in Job 28 there exists “a wisdom poem at the end of the dialogs between Job and his three friends. While storm stands for Job’s unbearable experience, here God sees wisdom in it.”[31] In Yahweh’s response, the wisdom motif is revisited. Yahweh raises several inquiries to Job implying that Job has little to no knowledge pertaining to the workings of creation. Yahweh inquires “From whose womb comes the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens when the waters become hard as stone…” (38:30)? Many other examples could be provided. Nevertheless, Yahweh demonstrates his wisdom, wisdom that would later be described in Proverbs 9 and personified in the Logos of John 1. Job could trust that his suffering held purpose because of the wisdom of God, but Job would have another reason to trust God in the midst of his suffering.

Throughout the message of Yahweh, particularly in the second discourse, Yahweh demonstrates his sovereignty, or complete control, over all creation. Herein is the crux in finding purpose in the sufferings of life: if God is morally good and just, as well as sovereign, then God can be trusted with the events of life. Through the descriptions of the Behemoth and Leviathan, Yahweh denotes his sovereign control. For with the Leviathan, while humanity could not “capture it by the eyes, or trap it and pierce its nose” (40:24), Yahweh could. Yahweh has power that humanity does not possess. Also with the Behemoth, while humanity could not “strip off its outer coat” (41:13), Yahweh could. In addition, one finds descriptions of God’s sovereignty in the whirlwind theophany.

Yahweh appeared to Job with a whirlwind (38:1). As noted earlier in the paper, the storm motif appears throughout the book of Job. Job’s family and livestock were destroyed by a storm in the earlier chapters of the text. Job states “are they as straw before the wind, and like chaff which the storm carries away” (21:18, NASB). Job offers a defense in noting about God that he had snatched “me up and drive me before the wind; you toss me about in the storm” (30:22). Job had encountered the storm initially and compared his plight to a storm. Then Yahweh appears to Job in the midst of a storm (40:6). The storm motif denotes the sovereign power of God. Alex Luc offers a compelling and powerful lesson in that “The reader who cries, ‘Where is God while the storm lingers?’ may find an answer, ‘God is in the storm’. When the storms of life tarry and God seems to retreat into total silence, the book of Job will continue to bring hope.”[32] The suffering of Job had purpose because of the sovereign power of Yahweh.

Conclusion

 This paper has evaluated the response that Yahweh delivered to Job’s accusations pertaining to Job’s sufferings. The paper has defended the thesis in that the response of God demonstrates particular divine attributes which address the overall theme of Job. The paper reviewed the two major theological attributes of God’s omniscience and omnipotence given in Yahweh’s message. The paper also evaluated how the moral and non-moral attributes of God contribute to the general framework of the theodicy theme of Job. Perhaps the most pressing issue that the paper has revealed is that God is not separate from the storms of life. The storms of life are at the discretion of a good, wise, powerful, and sovereign God. Paul sums up Job’s theme well with his statement to the Romans in that “we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28, NASB).

The content of this article represents the academic work of the author. Be advised the paper represented in this article has been scanned through SafeAssign. Any efforts of plagiarism will be detected.

 Bibliography

Alden, Robert L. Job. Volume 11. The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1993.

Barker, Kenneth L., and John R. Kohlenberger, III. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Old Testament. Abridged Edition. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994.

Brooks, Page, and D. A. Neal. “Theodicy.” The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Edited by John D. Barry, et al. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014.

Carson, D. A., et al., eds. New Bible Commentary. 4th Edition. Leicester, UK; Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994.

Erickson, Millard J. Christian Theology. 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998.

Feinberg, John S. No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God. Foundations of Evangelical Theology. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001.

Geisler, Norman L. Systematic Theology. Minneapolis: Bethany House, 2011.

Hunt, Harry. “Job, Book Of.” Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Edited by Chad Brand, et. al. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003.

Luc, Alex. “Storm and the Message of Job.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 87 (March 1, 2000): 111-123. Accessed April 9, 2015. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost.

Shields, Martin A. “Wisdom.” The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Edited by John D. Barry et. al. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014.

Smith, James E. The Wisdom Literature and Psalms, Old Testament Survey Series. Joplin, MO: College Press, 1996.

Steinmann, Andrew E. “The Structure and Message of the Book of Job.” Vetus Testamentum 46, 1 (January 1, 1996): 85-100. Accessed April 9, 2015. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost.

 Walton, John H., et. al. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament. Downers Grove: IVP, 2000.

———————————Footnotes——————————–

[1] Otherwise, this issue is termed the problem of theodicy.

[2] Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture comes from the New International Version (Grand Rapids: Biblica, 2011).

[3] The remainder of the paper will only use chapter and verse addresses for texts found within the book of Job.

[4] All Scripture noted as NASB comes from the New American Standard Bible (La Habra: Lockman Foundation, 1995).

[5] James E. Smith, The Wisdom Literature and Psalms, Old Testament Survey Series (Joplin, MO: College Press, 1996), Job 38–42, Logos Bible Software.

[6] Robert L. Alden, Job, vol. 11, The New American Commentary (Nashville: B&H, 1993), 38.

[7] Norman L. Geisler, Systematic Theology (Minneapolis: Bethany, 2011), 496.

[8] Kenneth L. Barker and John R. Kohlenberger III, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Abridged ed (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994), 783.

[9] Alden, Job, NAC, 370.

[10] John H. Walton, et. al. The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2000), 509.

[11] Harry Hunt, “Job, Book Of,” Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, Chad Brand, et. al., eds (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 927.

[12] Geisler, Systematic Theology, 487.

[13] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1998), 302.

[14] YHWH, or Yahweh, (often translated LORD) is the personal covenant name for God used in the Old Testament. The paper will use either the generic term God when referring to divinity in a general sense and Yahweh when referring to divine communication with Job.

[15] Alex Luc, “Storm and the Message of Job,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 87 (March 1, 2000): 115, Retrieved April 9, 2015.

[16] Barker and Kohlenberger, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Old Testament, 783.

[17] Alden, Job, NAC, 395.

[18] Walton, et. al., The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, 510.

[19] D. A. Carson et al., eds., New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove: IVP, 1994), 481.

[20] Barker and Kohlenberger, Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Old Testament, 786.

[21] Ibid.

[22] Andrew E. Steinmann, “The Structure and Message of the Book of Job,” Vetus Testamentum 46, 1 (January 1, 1996): 100, retrieved April 9, 2015.

 [23] Page Brooks and D. A. Neal, “Theodicy,” The Lexham Bible Dictionary, John D. Barry et. al., eds (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014), Logos Bible Software.

[24] Steinmann, “The Structure and the Message of the Book of Job,” Vetus Testamentum, 100.

[25] Smith, The Wisdom Literature and Psalms, Logos Bible Software.

[26] By moral attributes, the paper indicates the traits of God’s personal character.

[27] Luc, “The Storm and the Message of Job,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 114.

[28] Alden, Job, NAC, 394.

[29] John S. Feinberg, No One Like Him: The Doctrine of God, Foundations of Evangelical Theology (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001), 236.

[30] Martin A. Shields, “Wisdom,” The Lexham Bible Dictionary, John D. Barry et. al., eds (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2014), Logos Bible Software.

[31] Luc, “Storm and the Message of Job,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 116.

[32] Luc, Storm and the Message of Job,” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament, 123.

Copyright May 2015. Brian Chilton.