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Too Much Talking

“It is I– and I was talking about things I knew nothing about,” Job 42:3

Confession is warfare speech.

Job’s confession: The man who maintained relentlessly his innocence throughout a brutal trial of public opinion, confesses his sin of presumption, in that he spoke of “things far to wonderful for [him].”

God called him blameless. His dutiful commitment to sacrifice, offering, prayer, and conscientious living was unparalleled. Indeed he was rich in integrity and in possessions. He experienced what the psalter proclaims in Psalm 112:

How joyful are those who fear the Lord and delight in obeying His commands. Their children will be successful everywhere; an entire generation of godly people will be blessed. They themselves will be wealthy, and their good deeds will last forever. Light shines in the darkness for the godly. They are generous, compassionate, and righteous. Good comes to those who lend money generously and conduct their business fairly. Such people will not be overcome by evil. Those who are righteous will be long remembered. They do not fear bad news; they confidently trust in the Lord to care for them. They are confident and fearless and can face their foes triumphantly. They share freely and give generously to those in need. Their good deeds will be remembered forever. They will have influence and honor. The wicked will see this and be infuriated. They will grind their teeth in anger; they will slink away their hopes thwarted. Psalm 112

Before Job’s afflictions, this psalm described his life perfectly. He was committed to goodness and from his giving he received.

But this is the gospel that Job learned– the wretched and poor and blind and naked, the unclean must look to Jesus so that from His giving they might receive.

Job’s most damning affliction was his skin disease, the boils and oozing sores. The reason this was more oppressive to his spirit than losing everything, even his children, was that it mortified his attempts at righteousness. A skin disease made him unclean.

Job of course predates Levitical law, but even if just prophetically, let’s contemplate the spiritual weight of his ceremonial uncleanness.

His religion was useless if he couldn’t perform it. An unclean person could not sacrifice. They were quarantined. They couldn’t be touched, less they render the other person unclean.

If the skin disease was chronic they were required to leave their hair uncombed, tear their clothes, and call out as they passed other people, “Unclean! Unclean!”

For a person who did heal, they had to present themselves to the priests to be examined, receive a purification ritual involving sprinkling on of blood, shave their head, wash their clothes, and take a bath. (Leviticus 13 & 14)

I want to draw a parallel here between pre-affliction Job– wealthy, religious Job– along with his wealthy, religious friends and the church of Laodicea.

We meet the Laodicean church in both Revelation and Colossians. Paul instructed the Colossians to pass on his letter to the Colossians to the Laodiceans, and for the Colossians also to read the letter he wrote to the Laodiceans (which is unfortunately lost in antiquity.) The two must have had a bit in common for their individual admonitions to be mutually applicable.

In Colossians and Revelation you will find 4 shared themes: references to riches, treasure, inheritance, wealth, and gold; references to “putting on,” “clothe,” “clothing,” and “white robes;” baptism and water; and the identity of Christ as the only saving, renewing, justifying authority in the universe.

The Colossians are told to” put on your new nature.” Putting on our new nature is our baptism in Christ as we have died with Christ, are hidden in Christ, and have been born again a new creation– find this argument everywhere in the epistles of Paul.

Paul also tells the Colossians to “be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like Him,” Colossians 3:10.

The Colossians, and also the Laodiceans, did not think very much of Jesus. They didn’t take very seriously what Jesus did by sprinkling His blood on their uncleanness and being the living water baptismal font into which they were cleansed.

The Colossians bought into a lie that Jesus was an angel. So Paul begins his admonition to  the Colossians with a strong statement about Christ:

Christ is the visible image of an invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through Him God created everything in the heavenly realm and on earth. Colossians 1:15-16a

In Revelation, Jesus introduces Himself to the Laodicean church saying:

This is the message from the one who is the Amen– the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s new creation. Revelation 3:14

The Amen is the “let it be so.” In other words, their is nothing God does without materializing it through Jesus. Strong parallels between Colossians and Revelation!

But also to the book of Job! Oh my goodness, if only Job and his friends could know what we get to know through our inheritance of scripture!

That our works do not save us, that Jesus was not just a good teacher or our chummy guru. His is the blood for our purification and the baptism that makes us clean–

A clean that we must have to approach God!

We are baptized once to be cleansed, and it is enough, because Jesus died once for all to purify us and we only need to be baptized once, not over and over and over as it was under the old law, because Jesus is the Amen; once you’re baptized in Him “it is so.”

Jesus could easily say to Job and His friends what He said to the Laodicean church:

Buy from Me gold that has been purified in fire! Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be ashamed of your nakedness. Revelation 3:18 (paraphrase of NLT). 

“Trade in your good works for my good works!”

The Laodiceans are famous for their indifference. If they were anything like the Colossians, indifference does not mean that they lacked in religious fervor and diligence. Job gave fastidiously and energetically to his religious practice. So does the American church.

The Laodiceans water, of course, is also famous. They had no water of their own, so they piped it in and travelled it through valleys using a siphon. A siphon is basically a big U, so enough water had to pour down into the bottom from one side of the valley to create enough force to push the water up the hill and out the other side of the pipe.

Because the water was piped in from an outside source rather than being generated from a natural spring, I’m imagining that water could settle at the bottom of that siphon for a while before there was enough water accumulated to move it up and out. The pipes of the siphons of Laodicea are still scattered about its ruins. They are heavily corroded and are thought to have gone into disrepair frequently while in use because of quick calciferous build up.

Colossians 2:21 tells us of the works of the ceremonial laws: “that such rules are mere human teachings about things that deteriorate as we use them.”

In comparison, Jesus is Living Water.

Living Water, in rabbinical tradition and still used today– is the name given to a baptismal font (Mikva) connected to a natural source of water. Being tapped into a natural water source causes the baptismal to stay clean as opposed to a bath that would need to be emptied, purified, and refilled.

The Laodiceans, and Job, and his friends were indifferent about their baptism. They were indifferent about the glorious, praise-worthy, awesome, re-creating power of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and our partaking in His work through our one-time cleansing baptism.

They instead preferred their own riches of goodness. Lame.

They say, “I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing! Revelation 3:17

Presumption of the highest order! They were so satisfied with the heady perfume of their own trifling, ceremonial rightness, that they didn’t want very much for Jesus. And they didn’t think very highly of His taking away of their uncleanness and His washing of their garments.

They’d rather crucify Christ over and over for justification, and empty and refill that baptismal font over and over and over for their purity.

Job’s oozing, chronic, boil-y, skin disease is the best thing that ever happened to him.

The one thing that he couldn’t fix himself– the one point of righteousness he couldn’t attain himself– lead him to the Living Water, which alone could make him clean.

And that is what he confessed when he said, “It is I– and I was talking about things I knew nothing about, things that are far to wonderful for me. You said, ‘Listen, I will speak! I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.’ I had only heard of you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” Job 42:3b-6

Buy from Me… ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. Revelation 3:18

Our confession, what we must speak out, especially if you have been a Christian for awhile is: I will never stop needing Jesus.

 

 

For a more detailed study read:

Revelation 3:14-22; Colossians 1-4; Zechariah 3; John 1; Hebrews 7-9; Matthew 23; Matthew 8:1-4; John 7:37-39; John 2:23-4:42; Luke 4:27; 2 Kings 5:1-19; Leviticus 13 & 14; Hebrews 6:1-6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Too Much Talking

“Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind,” Job 38:1

What a beautiful thing when after all our anguish, complaint, tears, and wailing the Lord answers.

I think of “the Lord answering from the whirlwind” as a person being put in the center of a fresh revelation of God. This winnowing force that blows the chaff, the dust, the death off our bodies as we are overwhelmed by the full magnitude of truth.

He doesn’t just answer, He envelopes us in the stirring centrifuge of His person.

The moment this occurs for Job is in the midst of an impassioned rebuke from a young man named Elihu.

Many have considered Elihu to be a presumptuous young man in the same camp as the three wicked friends.

I disagree with this assessment for two entirely superficial reasons:

  1. If Elihu was one of the wicked friends there would be 4 wicked friends not 3.
  2. And Elihu’s name means “my God is He.”
    1. Bildad on the other hand means “Old friend.”
    2. Zophar means “rising early, crown.”
    3. Eliphaz means “the endeavor of God.”

Zophar, and Eliphaz have some good, strong, proud names. Names of religious work, crusade, and self-righteousness. Not bad names, in fact, these men were named well by respectable, ambitious fathers. But these names are definitely the kind that puff up, and denote a propensity toward the life of “the rich young ruler.” (Mark 10:17-27)

Bildad’s is the name of our past. The old friend. The friend of our old man.

Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside your old self with its evil practices, and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him. Colossians 3:9-10

Job was being called into new knowledge of the One who created him. The works of the flesh, including the diligent and dutiful living of the religious elite who were dependent on cerebral allegiance to the law and ritual atonement had to be laid aside.

Yet, Elihu’s allegiance was to God. “My God is He” speaks of a simple submission to God with no praiseworthy act of man included. Elihu’s name says: “Beginning and end, the whole of my faith and devotion is that my God is He.” Nothing else.

There is a fantastic article that is way more descriptive and exegetical than my etymology of names that you can find here (after you finish this of course cause I haven’t gotten to the good point yet!): Why is Elihu so Mysterious

The good point is this: Job comes into that whirlwind in the middle of a rousing sermon from Elihu.

All the other speeches are complete discourses with complete answers. We get definitive starts and stops; speeches and replies.

Elihu’s speech just fades into chapter 38:1. Elihu is talking and then in one seemingly continuous thought God picks up where Elihu is cut off. The Lord begins speaking from the whirlwind in the same tone and logic that Elihu was using.

Hasn’t this happened to you? One minute you are in church listening to the preacher’s words, and then suddenly you are enveloped in the spirit of truth? Your ears are perceiving the language of the preacher but your heart is enraptured in the ministry of the Holy Spirit; simultaneously He is piercing your soul with conviction and nourishing your spirit with correction and reconciliation. Haven’t you been within the whirlwind?

I hope so. Because this is why we sit under teaching, attend revival meetings hearing the evangelist proclaim the gospel, and flock to Sunday service to be caught up– not in the music, the sermon, or the coffee cart– but to be caught in the middle of the whirlwind where in one moment we are listening to “My God is He” and the next minute we are experiencing his God; and He becomes anew, our God.

This is spiritual warfare speech. These are words worth speaking: words that convict, conversations that get taken over by the voice of the Holy Spirit.

We will be committing the last posts of this series to positive speech– speech that is suited with the Armor of God that wrestles out victory for ourselves and our friends.

 

Too Much Talking

“Leviathan makes the water boil with its commotion.” Job 41:31

So this topic has become one of fascination for me: Behemoth and Leviathan.

There are really not that many spiritual principalities that are mentioned by name in the Bible, but the “beast” and the “serpent” appear from one end to the other of scripture.

A principality, such as what the Apostle Paul talks about in Ephesians, is a demonic ruler. It is a prince of demons. It has jurisdiction in a place, and power over other spirits.

It seems that Paul emphasizes the nature of principalities by describing them three repetitive but slightly different ways in Ephesians 6:12. He couples the ideas of authority and realm calling them: “evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world,” “mighty powers in this dark world,” and “evil spirits in the heavenly places.”

So there exists entities such as Behemoth and Leviathan who have a realm to rule, they have actual authority, they are unseen as they are active on earth, they are strong, they operate away from Christ’s light, they are evil in nature yet are angelic as they are privy to the heavenly court– just as we saw Satan is in the heavenly court Job 1 & 2.

Behemoth and Leviathan are probably familiar vernacular for most people outside of spiritual warfare talk.

Behemoth is a term in English language that usually denotes something large, immovable, entrenched, and with far-reaching power. Most often it would be used as a description for a company or an industry or a baron.

The ties we have made between Behemoth and commerce are completely appropriate. The word behemoth is literally an ancient Canaanite word for “beast.”

We first find the “beast” in operation in Genesis 11 where the first world system was created in Babylonia– a city called Babel.

“The Beast” in apocalyptic prophecy in Daniel and Revelation have to do with empires and world systems. Stodgy, huge, engulfing presences that enslave, weigh on, dominate, and break the people into acquiescence and compliance.

There are two victories prophesied in Revelation– the throwing of the serpent into the pit and the destruction of Babylon.

Leviathan, “the serpent of old,” “the dragon,” makes his first appearance in Genesis and his last in Revelation. Leviathan is throughout the Bible attributed with the power of deception. Sometimes he is considered Satan, himself, as the lies he propagates are so utterly destructive to our relationships with God and each other.

In Revelation, the dragon is absolutely called Satan (Revelation 20:2).

What impresses strongly on me is that both of these principalities operate in the unseen. The most powerful unseen world that I personally experience is the transfer of human communication. Our words fly here and there invisibly shaping and shaking the world.

Behemoth loves to operate in philosophy, politics, logic traps, confusion, riots, uproar, outrage, propaganda, and government. It wields influence in the transference of goods between nations, currency, trade agreements, armistices, alliances, and treaties. Oppressive regimes, indoctrination, the release or restriction of free speech– that is Behemoth.

Behemoth draws people into a world view and traps them into a world system that is incredibly difficult to break free from as every essential function of our humanity happens within a network, a web of social connections and shared interests.

This is why all over the world, throughout 6,000 years of history and evil world systems, people have had to completely break ties with everyone and everything they knew in order to follow the one true God. It happened to Abraham, it happens today. It is the process that we are witnessing in Job, as God breaks Job free from all wrong thinking and corrupt communication.

And I’ve said it once, I’ll say it a thousand times: the fight to gain that freedom from the Behemoth of pre-YHWHist world religion was fought on the battleground of interpersonal communication. We see it in the Book of Job as the battle between his friends’ worldly approach to theology versus Job’s purity and innocence through his reliance on a future Advocate, Mediator, and Redeemer.

Blasphemous words and deceptive speech are the charges against Behemoth and Leviathan respectively.

Called the “fleeing serpent,” the “twisting serpent,” the “shining one,” “the dragon,” Leviathan is famous for his deception of Eve. In Revelation, we find him in a retrospective trying to devour Israel before Jesus could be born out of her population. We get a brief heaven’s-eye-view of Jesus ascension and rule in heaven, before being told that right now, there is a war in heaven led by Michael and warring against Satan– the “one deceiving the whole world,” Revelation 12:9.

When this war is won, Satan and his angels will no longer have any place of access in heaven. They will be thrown down to earth and they will engage in a furious attempt to deceive and enslave (Revelation 13) with a power surge of authority as they know that soon they will not have any authority at all or ever again when Christ’s reign is completely consummated.

As Ephesians says, Satan and his princes operate in the unseen world, in the dark world. We have to take seriously that when Revelation talks about the blasphemy of the beast, the torrent of water against Israel from the dragon’s mouth, those vile words and persuasive speech are being spoken through human mouthpieces.

From the unseen world projected into the darkness of human hearts, Satan puts out his propaganda, deceiving (Leviathan) and enslaving (Behemoth) through human agents and earthly systems.

We know that Jesus establishes His kingdom on earth in His chosen day for complete and final victory over the Behemoth world systems that set themselves up against the knowledge of God (Revelation 18; 2 Corinthians 10:5).

It is believed in Jewish tradition (2 Esdras) that a feast will be made of Leviathan in the “time to come.” In Revelation, it is the dragon that is thrown into the pit last after all other evil spirits for a final and forever internment in hell (20:7-10).

As you read through Job, what is thought to be the oldest book in the Bible, you will find the whole scope and grandeur of God’s eternally derived plan for the world. The Book of Revelation’s cast of characters are right there in this early, poetic scripture.

You will find, in the Book of Job, God’s heart for mankind and His mechanism of salvation. You will find man in our deceived and deceiving condition. You will find Jesus fixing everything; and God clearing the decks with a thunderous, sweeping, awe-inducing truth bomb.

You see how the Spirit of Truth has the final say in the end, just as it has since the beginning.

Finally, you will find in the Book of Job, the one and only key that you need to fight in this unseen, dark world; your only necessary weapon of spiritual warfare:

To keep your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking lies. Psalm 34:13

A man is not defiled by what comes into your mouth but by the words that come out of your mouth. Matthew 15:11

Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. 1 Peter 4:11

Behemoth and Leviathan are word-powered spirits. Your talk either aligns you with them against God, or with God against them.

 

 

Too Much Talking

“He made all the stars– the Bear and Orion…” Job 9:9

Astrology is the most ancient, universal, and historically persistent form of occultism.

There are two standard reasons to chart the sky— navigation and divination.

Ancient Mesopotamians were “sea-faring”— actually they fished and did trade on two rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates. They contributed sail-boats to nautical history. However by all accounts they did not use sophisticated navigation— mostly just down-the-river and up-the-river.

There is a gap in the historical record of just how much they may have developed navigation systems. The gap, to me, could of course mean that they didn’t use it at all. It is solidly believed that whether or not they had any form of navigation, they did not chart the stars for maritime purposes.

Job 9:9 names two constellations and a star cluster. We will have to rule out his familiarity with constellations as practical and equate this reference to a familiarity with divination.

So, Job, righteous Job, was familiar— and apparently not weirded out by horoscopes. Was he familiar with the occult in general?

Well, of course. He had to have been. There was no Abrahamic religion to divide for him the sacred from the profane. There was no law by which to create parameters around Yahwist worshippers to help them separate what pleases God from what doesn’t. 

The Lord had been forgotten. Yes, at one time knowledge of Him would have permeated out from Eden, but over a quick span of time He was forgotten and idolatry prevailed.

From Genesis 5 on, we see a pattern of forgetfulness and remembrance of the Lord. 

It starts with one or two or three scattered people with a spark of awareness of the Lord making their best guesses toward obedience with varying degrees of personal revelation.

You notice the early accounts of the righteous– Noah for instance–  they were alone. There was no corporate worship, common prayers, or accepted cannon. They were each lone reeds of true religion sticking up from the sea of the contemporary idolatry of their time.

Acts 17:22-31 tells us that the Athenians worshipped every known god, including a shrine to the “Unknown God.” Paul told them that YHWH was their Unknown God and that He sent Jesus because He wanted to reveal Himself again— like in Eden— to the whole world rather than to continue the old system of people just “feeling their way to Him.” 

I have been very uncomfortably exploring this concept of syncretism in Judeo-Christianity— even when obvious in biblical accounts it feels weird to acknowledge that Christianity, and Judaism before it, while being sanctified from the world has not ever really been sanitized from it.

It’s strange to navigate this idea that Christianity is constantly being fished out from paganism. 

From the Genesis account, we know that God is the First, and Revelation tells us, the Last. He is the only living and eternal God. Jesus was the Lamb slain from the foundations of the world. Before the world, there was salvation through Christ alone.

So, it is instinctual to read the Bible seeing only the primacy, preeminence, and preexistence of Christianity. We read the inherent preeminence of Christian faith as meaning: before there was any false religion there was true religion. 

But that does not appear to be so.

Really knowledge of the one true God, as well as individual and sparse worship of the one true God, predates false religion, yes. 

But post-Eden human forgetfulness caused rapid and definitive decline into idolatry that predates any communal, organized worship of YHWH. 

This is what makes Israel so special: God entrusted His law to them. He entrusted to them a systematic, cyclical, sacramental, liturgical, structure of life with every intention of scooping them out of idolatry, cleaning them off from profanity, and wedging open the steel trap of human stubbornness to a slowly dawning recollection of our Master.

And the point of gifting to the Israelites the “knowledge of God” was so that everyone that came into contact with them would have a momentary, life-altering encounter with God’s presence that would either: 1) offend them to the point of escalated idol worship or 2) would move them to rush into the arms of the God of the Israelites evidenced in how they would beg to be allowed to live in the camp of God’s people (ie, Rahab, Ruth, and “a mixed multitude” from Egypt during the Exodus.)

I think what we all struggle to assimilate is the depth of spiritual darkness that prevailed between Adam and Abraham. And we read the Bible as if the earth’s population between Abraham and Moses had the Bible!

They didn’t. They had no law, no scripture, no priests, no fellow believers. They didn’t have apostles or teachers or fishers of men. Maybe every once in awhile an oral tradition about Enoch or Noah floated through the co-mingled accounts of Gilgmesh and Endiku. They had to sift and wade through folktales and cling to scraps of memory.

They had scattered encounters with angels, occasional direct revelation from God, one or two miracles to stoke a lifetime of lone faithfulness. Not to downplay those things– but would even those few miracles be enough for you go alone unwavering in belief, obedience, righteousness, and separatism for decades of your life? Abraham bumped into a fellow-worshipper— Melchizedek— once in his lifetime! Other than that he had no fellowship and a life-time of living in an exclusively pagan world. 

Job lived before Moses, before Mt.Sinai. He had none of the benefits of the Caananites, Egyptians, Assyrians, Babylonians, Greeks, or Romans. Each of those fortunate empires came into contact— not with the Hebrews, Israelites, or the Jews— but rather the religion, revelation, and Redeemer of the Hebrews, Israelites and the Jews. 

It is completely reasonable to believe that Job was very familiar with how occultism worked and with His acknowledgement that God created the zodiac, it’s probably not unrealistic to think that divination— soothsaying, fortune-telling, witchcraft— might have even been an ignorantly incorporated part of his self-righteous practice.

After all, the entire conversation of the Book of Job is divination. 

Have you ever considered that in times of strife, when we go round and round the question, “why is this happening,” that we might be engaging in the act of trying to divine God’s heart? 

How is contemplating “why is” different from trying to soothsay “what will” God do in the future? 

Aren’t both a process of looking at God ritualistically as though He moves in discernible, patterns in response to specific, repeatable prompts? 

People practice divination to insulate themselves from things outside of their control. The stars are always the same, so we feel secure and in control when we interpret them.

It is possible that many of us in our anxious natures try to use our knowledge of God, as a way of tea-leafing our way through the angst of uncertainty. We try to navigate any possible land-mines in God’s character. 

You cannot know enough about God to predict what He “would or wouldn’t do.” He is not a constellation moving through a night sky favoring those born under certain stars.

God handedly smashes such charting of His divine nature as utter foolishness in Job chapters 38-41. In fact He uses Job’s own zodiac reference to help make His point:

Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades?

    Can you loosen Orion’s belt?

 Can you bring forth the constellations in their seasons

    or lead out the Bear with its cubs?

 Do you know the laws of the heavens?

    Can you set up God’s dominion over the earth? 

Job 38:31

God’s whole rebuke of Job is basically this:

  1. Who do you think you are?
  2. What do you think you know?
  3. Do you think I need your council?
  4. Do you find fault in how I am doing my job as Master of the Universe?”

His rebuke is this: “Do you think you can deal with me the way you would with those puny idols man is so preoccupied with; is manipulating Me the end game of your religion?”

This is the process of human forgetfulness. It is being agitated by things we can’t understand to the point of inappropriate attempts at controlling our environment, our “god,” and our wellbeing through our piety. 

We set up structures and strictures so that everything and everyone is easy to understand and maneuver.

We decide that this is also how God sees and understands everything. We decide that if you abide by these constraints that God will keep all bad things— ranging from calamity to His own wrath— away from us. 

Hardship befalls a friend. Fallenness is revealed in the saved. A flood or a fire rains down. 

So we get out from the closet the old bag of feathers, sticks and tea leaves, gossip, and subpar theology and shake ‘em up, scatter them across the floor trying to figure out what these people did so wrong that God would send evil things their way. 

And immediately we are looking at God as though He operated the way those other “gods” operate. And in such, we have again forgotten the one true God. 

If you read Numbers and Leviticus, you’ll notice that every holiday on the sabbatical calendar was initiated by God with the admonition “do this to remember me.” And Jesus, likewise initiated the practice of communion, “in remembrance” of Him. 

Being fished out of a sea of idolatries requires remembrance. If we fail to remind ourselves of God’s incomprehensible heart that sees every man’s heart, we will flounder around in synchronistic Christianity that never fully gives up that witchy itch for control of our fate.

Without remembrance we won’t release ourselves into full-fledged dependence on God’s mercy. 

We will continue to have a preoccupation with the theoretical dynamics of sin rather than a practical abandonment to God’s assurance of salvation. 

“I know that my Redeemer lives!”

Too Much Talking

“Let those who are experts at cursing…curse that day.” Job 3:8

The Book of Job, describes a time before the Children of Israel were the Children of Israel.

In other words, there was no Judeo-Christian paradigm within which a person had resources to mine out an understanding of the Most High God.

God predates Israel, right? Yes.

So how did people relate to Him before He revealed Himself through the Torah– which He eventually gave to form a family of Chaldean nomads into a theocratic kingdom that was a living historical testament to His power, presence and personality?

Well, they related to Him like Job did– in a very fuzzy, grasping, trying, unsure, superstitious, sort of clunky way. Job just did the best he could with what he knew and what his convictions were and hoped for the best!

Job had no promises, no blessing, no atoning covenants. He had what he knew about other gods and religions and myths, folklore, folk magic, astrology, curses, demons, monsters, and the nagging he had in his heart about the nature of the One True God and a compulsion to serve Him.

What we see in Job is similar to what we see in the lives of the patriarchs: a people being called out from deception and deistic half truths into a revelation of YHWH.

And it’s a process! A messy process that is God led and paced.

What is interesting to me is that we know of two distinct followers of YHWH that were contemporaries of the Bible’s main man, Abraham– Job and Melchizedek.

They all 3 have this in common: They had a preconception of Christ.

As Job was getting to know YHWH, he instinctively knew that Christ had to be a part of the plan.

Melchizedek was the prototype of Christ’s priesthood.

Abraham understood that God would provide the sacrifice.

Abraham’s dad Terah was originally the one who felt this draw to travel to Canaan (Genesis 11:31). But he stopped. He settled in Haran before he got to Canaan. Terah left the Chaldeans and their mystery religions behind and started to move forward but stopped short. What was different between he and his son?

I think Terah might have been a little familiar with the Lord at least, because when Abraham was called to move by the Lord, there is not an account of him asking for introductions. He didn’t seem blind-sided. Perhaps the Lord and the idea of a God-inspired move was not totally foreign.

So, again, what is unique about Abraham? A gut understanding of Jesus as Redeemer, Sacrifice, and Priest that his dad maybe didn’t have.

Job, Melchizedek, and Abraham: the good soil, who had ears to hear and understand; they got the whole “Jesus thing.”

I think the centrality of the “Jesus thing” to even the origins of YHWH worship starts to come into focus when Job almost gives up.

He almost gives up on life and the hope of redemption. He gets it, his friends don’t, but he still almost throws in the towel– even though he conceives of this glorious hope!

And he sets off this torrent of curses!

“Curse the day. Curse the night. Curse the calendar…Let those who could rouse Leviathan curse that day!”

I’m just going to cut to the good part: a curse is always juxtaposed with Jesus, is it not?

We don’t really get Jesus until we run up against the curses He broke.

Leviathan, that serpent of old, the sea monster with seven heads full of the seven things God hates, that sloshing, frothy instigator of evil.

Job was feeling the weight of all the curses, doom, destruction that the world delivers.

Unfortunately! Leviathan was called up in the shape of his three friends. Job repeatedly says how his friends were making his burden heavier; they were frustrating him, vexing him, antagonizing him– they were highlighting the Curse as if it wasn’t already glaring to him!

And that, by the way, is so much how being under a spiritual attack is. It’s like you have weight after weight or calamity after calamity, illness, anguish, mishaps, accidents, misunderstandings…and the curse just grows right in front of you.

As a Christian, victory over darkness isn’t being weight-free, healthy, smooth sailing– Paul actually used his shipwrecks as evidence of his authenticity as an apostle! (2 Corinthians.)

Victory over darkness is watching evidence of the curse expand all around you, and your response is just to see Jesus.

Today when someone does something really awful and people say, “Oh man, the world needs Jesus,” you might think they are being trite or conservative. And maybe so– but they’re still right!

When darkness is most profound the light should be really obvious!

If the curse doesn’t make us think of Jesus, we need to go back to the drawing board of our hodgepodge of theistic ideas until we are actually called out into the worship of YHWH that has always had Christ as the answer to the Curse.

Christ as the answer to the Curse has been, and is, the defining expression of the heart of the Ancient of Days. Yesterday, today, and forever.

 

 

 

 

Too Much Talking

“Let the day of my birth be erased,” Job 3:3

This post is a bit of a part two to the previous post “Who, being innocent has ever perished.” So, if you wanted to brush through that post for some pivotal ideas that’d be fine. Look for the concepts of: roles, the problem with the question “why,” self-interested mourners, and theological encounters in tragedy.

Each of those ideas will be insinuated in the discussion below.

This might be an all too familiar topic for some; and a fortunately foreign one for others. We are going to be discussing suicide as spiritual warfare as seen in the Book of Job.

First, I want to say that I am not dismissing mental illness as the source of most suicides by framing it within the context of spiritual warfare.

If you suffered with me through my series on the liturgical holidays, you will know that I consider the spiritual and physical realms as a completely unified reality.

Also, I hope that you will not dismiss my point of view as I myself have lived with the thorns, thistles, fears, and despair of bipolar 1 disorder for 10 years– and I take medication for it. I have supported my husband through combat related PTSD and survivor’s remorse for the past 7 years– and he didn’t really find therapy helpful; but he found meeting Jesus as his savior changed everything. I’ve walked through mental illness with friends who didn’t want to stay on their treatment plan and friends who were fastidious with doctors, medication, therapy, and groups. I’ve watched loved ones encounter schizophrenia, major depression, paralysis, and suicide some with support and some with none.

I do not say this in any way to elevate myself, nor do I assume that because I have experienced mental illness within my own sphere that that qualifies me to understand your unique experience of heart-ache and sickness.

I reveal these things about myself entirely to remove any trace of me being glib from this post. And also I want to express that just because I think mental illness and suicidal ideation is spiritual that does not mean that I think intervention and treatment is “un-Christian.”

The reality is that suicide is a spirit of death that has breached the walls of the church and as most recently publicized has been affecting devoted clergy members, which removes any delusions that Christians may have previously held onto that suicide is not a Christian issue.

This torturous state– suicidal ideation and attempts and completed suicides– is now in front of us as the Church in the same uncomfortable manner that Job’s friends had to look at. And that is just what we have to do– we have to look at it. And evaluate our beliefs.

When we go to the house of our friend whose spirit is failing within them, we can’t bring in our fear-based, self-serving, God-in-a-box, forget-Satan-is-real, prosperity-adjacent theology that would rather try to protect our ideas about God before challenging them in the face of life’s harshest reality: death.

God will show up to challenge death. Can we?

So. Did you know that Judas Iscariot’s hanging is not the only time we hear of suicide in the Bible? If the instance of the disciple who betrayed Jesus was the only time we heard of suicide in the Bible, it would be easy to vilify suicide along with the villain.

But. It is certainly not the only place we hear of it. God’s servant Job, the finest man in all the earth, blameless, and of complete integrity (God’s words not mine- Job 1:8), experienced approximately 32 chapters of suicidal ideation, longing for death, despairing, desiring to meet his Maker rather than suffer among God’s creation any longer.

To make this easier for you to see, I am going to strip away the poetry in Job 3:1 – 27:23, so that it will become more obvious that Job’s ten speeches and his friends’ replies are in all reality a mere script of what is even today the typical conversation you would have with a suicidal loved one.

Keep in mind then that Job’s friends are considered wicked.

I do want to put a trigger warning here, even though I usually make fun of them. If you are experiencing a pull toward death and despair, can you please pray about how my rendition of Job will affect you? Please pray about whether this will encourage you or discourage you before reading. Thanks, love you.

Here we go:

Job:

I wish I were never born. I wish my parents wouldn’t even have ever had sex so that I could never have been born. Or I wish I would have been born dead and the doctors couldn’t save me. I wish I could have just always rested in oblivion. Why would God create me just to let me live this kind of life. I have no appetite. I can’t eat. (Job 3.)

Eliphaz:

Ok, let me just say something. You are such a good friend. You have done so much for other people. You’ve seen God work in your friends’ lives, don’t you believe He’ll do that for you? Come on, you know that God punishes bad people. You are such a good person. You know, this’ll all turn around. 

You know I had this divine revelation about how awesome God is and how no one is righteous before Him– not even His angels. He is Holy. You need to just pray. Maybe the Lord is maturing you through this. You will have a huge testimony after all this is over. (Job 4-5.)

Job:

You cannot understand. I have this weight on me. It’s too much. Why can’t you let me complain? God is letting me suffer so much. I can’t eat. Nothing tastes good. I want to die. I want God to just take me home. A person can only be so strong. I am a Christian. I have always been faithful, I still am. But this is all too much. 

Why can’t you just be kind and console me. You are blaming me. You’re acting like I am doing something wrong! You are a terrible friend. Please stop criticizing me and tell me something real. Tell me something true about God that I can hold onto instead of making me feel worse!

What, you’ve never been hurt or suffered? Have you ever been depressed? Have you ever been awake all night waiting for morning and then unable to get out of bed? I have sores all over my body for Christ’s sake!

“God! Oh my God! Help me. You see me. I can’t go on like this. I know You can do something, why won’t You?” (Job 6-7.)

Bildad:

You are talking in circles, Job! You’re making it sound like this is God’s fault. Like He did something wrong. You need to pray. Seek God to restore your right thinking, your thinking is wrong. He is going to restore you. Get that right in your head. 

You have to remember what happens to people who don’t believe. Just believe. You’ll be singing praise in no time. You’ll watch everyone who hurt you get theirs when God is on your side ’cause you believed. (Job 8.)

Job:

Bildad, I know. I know God is holy and mighty. I know He is just. But how can a person be good enough for Him? He’s God. The creator. He’s huge. He’s miraculous. 

I just feel so far away from Him. I feel helpless before Him, without His love. 

I’ve got nothing. I have nothing to offer Him or any way to defend myself. I know I haven’t done anything wrong, yet I feel like I can’t draw near to Him. I feel no intimacy. I’ve always tried to please Him, for what?!

I guess I should just pretend to be happy. I’m dying. Might as well put on a happy face. 

There’s nothing I can do. I need someone who God loves to convince Him to spare me. I’ve gone as far as I can on my own. I just don’t know what He wants from me. 

“Lord, why?!!! What is the point?! Lord, I don’t get it! I thought You loved me. I’m so confused.” (Job 9-10.) 

Zophar:

Job, you are talking way too much. Take a break. You’re gunna get yourself in trouble here. You’re saying you’re a Christian, but you obviously do not understand God. You are so off base on what God is like. 

You really, really need to pray. There is obviously some hidden sin in your life. You need to repent. You’ll feel so much better. But if you keep on how you’re going– yeah, death will be your only answer. (Job 11.)

Job:

Oh, you’re so smart, huh, Zophar? Too bad when you die we’ll lose all your insight. What a loss. You know, I have a little insight myself, yet you act like I’ve never studied the Bible, prayed, been close to God, or devoted. It’s easy to mock me when nothing’s wrong in your life.

I think if you really knew your Bible, if you even paid attention to the wisdom in creation, or even looked at history, you’d know that bad things happen to good people. 

You’re such a hack, Zophar. You’re so bent on “defending” God that you are ignoring basic truths. What you’re saying is completely unhelpful.

Prove that God is punishing me because I deserve it and I will happily kill myself. 

“God have mercy. It’s too much. Relent, Lord. Please show me how I’ve sinned. I will repent. Don’t be my enemy. Don’t accuse me, Lord. We all die. You are in control. Lord, kill me. I feel dead already. How can I live again? Give me hope that you still love me and have a desire for me to live and to serve you and to have purpose here on earth. Otherwise I’ll die an insignificant death.” (Job 12-14.) 

Eliphaz:

Oh my God! I cannot believe how you are talking! Those words are sinful. Who do you think you are? Surely, you’re not the first person to suffer; and to talk about God like that!

You can’t say there is no way that you deserve what you’re getting. No one is perfect. Everyone has to go through things to mature. You are talking like a baby Christian. You know better…or I thought you did. 

You are revealing your hard heart. You’re defiance. That’s why this is happening to you. This is exactly what the Bible says happens to stiff-necked people. (Job 15.)

Job:

Wow. Great friend, Eliphaz. Like I don’t know all this. Like I couldn’t say some things about you. But if you were in my position, I’d try to help you not criticize you. 

“God, You’ve destroyed me. And now I’m ashamed as people make fun of how I feel. After I do this, Lord, at least let my death remind you that we need someone to help us stand before You. So that we don’t have to suffer under Your holiness. I don’t deserve anything different, but make someone perfect who could help those of us that You hate.

God, defend me? My friends are stupid and they think they know anything about You. I’m so ashamed. I have to die. I have no hope. They’ll just bury any hope I have left with me.” (Job 16-17.) 

Bildad:

Stop talking, Job! Do you think we’re idiots? The wicked die prematurely. Skin disease like yours is a sign of wickedness. Their homes burn down. They have no children, no heirs. Surely, you have all the signs of a person who has rejected God! (Job 18.)

Job:

Just go away. You guys are torturing me. You just keep insulting me. Why is what I do any of your business anyway? You are using my humiliation as evidence of my sin? Seriously? 

I have prayed. I have nothing and no-one left. There’s nothing left for me to hold onto. 

Geez, the least you could do is show me a little mercy. 

I know that somewhere, somehow, at some time a Redeemer will justify me. I’ll be able to stand before God at last. 

I wonder how you all will stand up on judgment day after judging me, as if you know. (Job 19.)

Zophar:

You know, the Spirit is prompting me to say this. I’m so disturbed. Job, you are a blasphemer.

All of your wealth– we thought it meant God’s favor. But we should have realized that you were just a fake. You are a wicked person who got wealth quickly but lost it because you were truly sinful. (Job 20.)

Job:

Can’t you just listen to me? You don’t think I have reason to be disappointed with God? Terrible things happen to good people and great things happen to bad people. What kind of God does that? Why did I spend all that time being a good Christian? It didn’t help me! I know you’re going to say that evil people who enjoy life on earth will suffer in hell, and their kids reap the consequences. You can’t prove that. That is so cliche. It’s no comfort to me. (Job 21.)

Eliphaz:

What, do you think you can help God do a better job, Job? You need to repent. Now that I think of it, I can think of quite a few shady things you’ve done. You’re not as good as you think you are. Stop pitying yourself. You need salvation. If you reject God, there’s nothing He’s going to do about it. It’s your choice. God will save you if you repent and turn to Him. (Job 22.)

Job:

I would pray to God if I knew how to make Him hear me. I’ve prayed, believe me. I can’t argue my case to Him; I know He is sovereign. I know that God knows my heart. I know the trials He puts us through purify us. He knows that I have been a true and faithful follower. He knows my heart is pure. But it doesn’t make this time any less dark. 

I don’t know why some suffer; why there is poverty or crime or famine; or why people die of exposure in homelessness. Human trafficking. The working poor! Evil people with completely satanic hearts run rampant. I know they will meet judgment. I know that their is no rescuing them from the power of the grave. I know that for sure. (Job 23-24.)

Bildad:

God is awesome and powerful. We all have a sin nature. We all fall short. (Job 25.)

Job:

Don’t think you’re doing some good work by coming to talk to me. You have not offered me any compassion or insight. The Spirit of God is completely discerning. His intelligence distinguishes between the slightest shadows. Don’t think that I don’t know you are operating in a wrong spirit. It is not the Holy Spirit speaking through you. 

The Lord has put me in this place in life. But I will never agree with you that this is my fault. I will never agree with you that this is the consequence of my sins. Don’t think that your plenty equates to favor. Don’t think because you are more well off than me that you are more spiritual than me. Do not take your mental health to mean that you have spiritual health. (Job 26-27.)

So concludes the discourse between Job and his three wicked friends. 

This conversation is difficult to overhear. Where do you think you’d stand? Have you said any of these things to a friend?

But mostly, what is it that makes Job innocent in this conversation and his friends wicked in their communication? Spoiler alert: God sides with Job in chapter 42.

There are two characteristics that put Zophar, Bildad, and Eliphaz in Satan’s camp during this discourse: accusation and self-sufficiency.

They say a lot of things about God that are true, but they accuse Job. And in their accusation they assume that man’s actions are sufficient to save or condemn him.

Job, on the other hand, remains righteous by standing firm in assurance of his innocence due to a prophetic foreknowledge of an Advocate that can absorb God’s wrath. In other words, he believed that only Jesus saves.

The battle between these two beliefs is the definition of spiritual warfare.

All Satan wants is for us to step out from under grace and into condemnation.

He wants to accuse us, scare us, make us afraid of God, to make us hide from God, and as such, we’d fall into trying to justify ourselves by our own merit. (Does that sound anything like Genesis 3?)

He wants us to try to live in our own will and way, and on our own goodness and strength rather than standing in trepidation, exhaustion, depression, remorse– but!– standing still, in the purity and hope that Christ provides.

To experience mental illness is to experience the deepest dredges of shame. It is to have accusation after accusation whispered in your ear. It is to live under the specter of guilt. And though wicked friends wouldn’t believe it, the feelings of guilt are without cause.

The panic of mental illness is that something rotten– god knows what exactly– will be found out about you. The itchiness of this self-consciousness is like the feeling of standing unclean before the judge.

Yet, Zechariah 3 tells us how the high priest, Jeshua, stood in filthy clothes before the Lord. Satan was making accusations against him, and the Lord said, “I, the Lord, reject your accusations, Satan.” 

That is my favorite verse in the whole Bible.

What put Job’s friends on the wrong side of the spiritual battle is who they agreed with. They were accusing Job, agreeing with the Accuser.

God had already proclaimed Job as blameless…that is prophetic. What God says just, well, is. By maintaining his innocence, Job was in agreement with God.

Love covers a multitude of sins. God’s love for Jesus covers the multitudes who believe that they need an Advocate (John 16:26-27).

No matter how true or untrue what Job said about God was (his theology), he got one thing right– accusation is of the Accuser, and we stand innocent when we stand on hope in the Advocate.

Win, lose, or draw in our suffering, we can ultimately only throw ourselves on the mercy of Jesus.

Jesus did not save us from our sins so that we could become able to do good works and please God.

My biggest fear after my diagnosis was that if I am some sort of maniac, how can I be good? And if I can’t become fundamentally good, how can I be a Christian? I wasn’t able.

Jesus saved us from our sins and now we do please God. Now we are a pleasure to the Lord. We still aren’t able, we just are. Because: Jesus.

But it’s not about you; it’s about Jesus. So, those conversations in your head or with your exasperated friends who are trying to convince you to go to church and stop cutting yourself– can come to a full stop! The cross ended the conversation about your worth, and the verdict was: worthy.

Which is wonderful news for a wretch like me, or anyone else who the Accuser works overtime to destroy.

Your anguish, your loss, your disability might make it so that you are never respectable again. But blessing or cursing, plenty or lean, survive or succumb– you are clothed in Jesus’ righteousness. He has given you the one thing you need– being blameless in the eyes of God.

“He is blameless.” Job 1:8 & Job 2:3.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Too Much Talking

“Who, being innocent, has ever perished?” Job 4:7

We all relish the roles we play. And those roles are inherently relational.

I am a mother in relation to my child; a wife in relation to my husband. I am a parishioner in relation to my church. I have been a volunteer in relation to my favorite charities; and a mental health advocate in my relationship to mental illness.

The roles we play are not the only ones that matter to us. We take serious interest in the roles other people play.

And we get aggravated, confused, betrayed, judgmental, condescending when a person with whom we are in relationship steps outside the binds of how we define their role.

Job stepped out of the role of wealthiest man alive when God allowed Satan to take his possessions.

He was removed from the role of diligent, godly father when though he sacrificed regularly for his children’s sins, a roof collapsed on them at a party, killing them all!

He no longer filled the role of most admirable elder on the board when he was stricken with a grotesque, oozing, unclean skin disease.

And, other than his wife, the people who were the most absolutely unhinged by his change in status were his own friends. The ones who had in pretense come to sit shiva with him in his mourning, were really there to feel out how far the previous object of their envy had fallen.

This is the bee I think had gotten into their bonnets: They were entirely restless in their spirits over “why” these terrible things happened to Job. And whether it could happen to them.

“Why” is nearly its own evil spirit in moments of tragedy. It’s a question that can all by itself open a person up to years’ worth of unbelief and bitterness that they will have to back peddle through…and this has a great amount to do with who it was they were talking to about this “why” and what that consoler said to them– the conversation that friend/foe entertained with them in their weakest moments.

“Why” is such an explosive topic of mournful conversation because in times of trial it is impossible to ask “why” without entering into an emotional encounter with your own theology. 

One of the ways that we harm each other in conversation is in irresponsibly discussing and defining God’s “role” in our personal devastation.

The Book of Job is defined by idle chatter in that the whole book is one laborious conversation between a handful of men discussing “why” something happened to one of them, and what the answer to that question implied about Job, and about God.

Job and his friends played the role of the Pious believing that God played the role of Appeased. They seemed to mostly overlook Satan’s role as Accuser. Job understood the need for someone to one day play the role of Advocate.

The problem with trying to assign roles in the spirit is that God is sovereign. And unequaled.

Satan is reliably the Accuser of the Brethren. We are reliably sifted and shifting in our faith through life’s bumps and bruises.

But the greatest challenge to our belief, is that God is not reliable– He does not fit reliably into a “role” for us.

Though unchanging, He is sovereign, meaning He is not beholden to us to be who and how we thought He was.

In theological rumination, we ask, “Who are You, God?” And He says, “I am.”

In pain, we ask, “Where were You, God?” And He says, “I was.”

In frustration, we cry out, “Won’t You do something?!” And He says, “I’ll do some thing.”

He’s not reliable; He’s wonderful.

The wonder of God is what Job gets to experience in chapters 38-41: “Then the Lord spoke to Job from out of the storm…” Job 38:1. 

But God never did answer “why”– not to Job nor to his unproductive, pseudo-spiritual, self-concerned companions.

“Who, being innocent, has ever perished?” Job’s friends asked him; implying: “We are innocent and safe from this terrible onslaught of misfortune; you however are not.”

When we, as friends/ministers/mourners go to comfort another in their distress, we. have. to. check our self-interest at the door, because their is a fragile psyche in that house that needs you to be responsible with the theology you entertain with them.

It’s hard to do.

None of us want to play the role of Job.

None of us want to find out about how wonderful God is through the trials of Job.

So we talk our way up, over, around, and through God’s sovereignty, not in compassion, but in fear.

And it ends up, that our friends would have been better off if we had never showed up for them at all.