Too Much Talking

“If you make the Lord your refuge,” Psalm 91:9

Here we are at the final installment of Too Much Talking: Spiritual Warfare in the Book of Job.

About half way through writing this series, I started to hear Psalm 91 every time I turned my attention to Job.

(It is just 16 verses if you’d like to familiarize yourself before reading on.)

The events in Job’s life do not seem to match up at all with the triumphant declarations of invincibility that the psalmist puts forth.

But Job’s experience of God is perfectly envisioned by the psalm.

The events in the psalm: God will rescue you from every trap, protect you from disease, and though thousands fall around you, no evil will touch you.

Certainly not how it happened for Job. God told Satan it was “ok” for him to set traps, inflict disease, and while everyone else was flourishing to dash Job down.

This brings up a terrible uneasiness, a question for the ages: Are all of God’s promises for all believers?

And if not, why not me?

That was my question in the moments when I was regaining lucidity after a six week long psychosis, and four weeks “imprisonment” in a psych ward.

I had tried so hard to be faithful, obedient, and true. I was a real and honest believer. Why weren’t God’s promises for me? Had my little bit of existential questioning in college really warranted such rejection from God? Such a betrayal of our contractual obedience-for-blessing arrangement?

My mom had a Bible that she kept in the car while we were growing up. Every morning on the way to school, she would have me read Psalm 91 aloud to my siblings and then she would pray over us to have a good day.

How is it that my mother could request the specific blessings of Psalm 91 over and over, and still have me be stricken down with a condition so emotionally mutilating as bipolar disorder?

But today, I read the psalm again and I start to see that Psalm 91 takes place on a battlefield.

There is war and plague and snares and enemies all around in Psalm 91. We are surrounded.

The events in Psalm 91 in fact do match the attacks against Job. But the psalmist has a perspective that I certainly lacked in my worst times, and a perspective that Job had to fight to gain.

This perspective is that the events in my life do not equate to my experience of God’s faithfulness in a 1:1 ratio.

Another way to say it is, victory and defeat are opposites but there is always a battlefield between them. The battlefield does not define victory, or defeat, but it is where they are decided.

Psalm 91 doesn’t describe a life free of trouble, it describes a person being American Ninja Warrior-ed through troubles on the backs of angels and by the hand of God.

The events of the psalmist’s life include traps, disease, stumbling blocks, terrors, arrows, disaster, evil, plague, lions, and cobras.

His experience, however, is shelter, rest, refuge, safety, rescue, armor, protection, being upheld, being answered, being honored, being rewarded, and given salvation.

When you are suffering, people want to identify for you all the many things you are doing to cause or perpetuate your suffering.

As we’ve seen in Job, people ill-at-ease at the sight of a Christian stumbling are quick to diagnose spiritual disease and to prescribe over-the-counter piety.

But the Book of Job prescribes exactly one remedy to the person whose hopes are dashed, whose tragedies are endless, and whose own friends have become their oppressors:

“Make the Lord your Refuge.”

Psalm 91 sounds so triumphant not because there is nothing bad happening in the life of the psalmist, but because he will not be removed from his fortress.

The psalmist is living in the shelter of the Most High, under the shadow of the Almighty, in the refuge of the Lord.

God’s guantlet to Satan was that no matter what Satan did to Job, Job would not leave his spiritual fortress. He would not blame God. He would not curse God and die.

I was moved in my worst years. And it did nothing but make my struggle worse, longer, and more intense.

I refuse to blame the victims of hardship for their broken hearts; but that doesn’t mean, dear Broken Hearted, that you have license to sin. Let me tell you, blaming God will not bring you to an alternate route of victory. Self-will, self-help, self-denial…all the ways we try to fix things ourselves are an affront to the perfect architecture of our Shelter, Christ.

To be rescued means that you were once in danger. To need armor and protection implies war. When you’re told “do not fear,” it means there is something to fear. In order to crush lions and serpents, you have to encounter them.

And we are tasked with one thing: To declare of my Lord, He alone is my refuge, my place of safety, He is my God, and I trust in Him!

Job was honorably assured of his own goodness from the beginning. His transformation was to become unshakably assured of God’s goodness. No matter how “good” we think we are, life is insufferable if we do not know that God is good.

Our shelter is not in declaring, “I am innocent!” It is in declaring, “He is my God, and I trust in Him.”

Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”

It can sound so hard to stick to an avenue, advocate for the truth, and adhere to a lifestyle. For people like me, who have gone through months at a time where feeding, dressing, and bathing myself are genuine chores, doing something so upstanding as the Christian life sounds exhausting.

There are many fulfilling “doings” in Christian life. But Psalm 91 tells us:

The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me. I will protect those who trust in my name. When they call on me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation.”

In John 6:29, Jesus tells a crowd in the synagogue at Capernaum, “This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one He has sent.”

Our belief and our confession are tightly interwoven. When you can’t do any other work, be encouraged that the only work that matters is what you declare of your Lord.

Speech is warfare.

 

Too Much Talking

“My servant Job will pray for you, and I will accept his prayer,” Job 42:8

In the last post, we explored how the Book of Job informs the discussion around “how someone is saved?” The answer of course is “calling on the name of Jesus.”

Job called on the Mediator, the Advocate, the Redeemer. I would assume that all of us have personalized names of Jesus that we call on.

Most importantly though, when Job called on these names of Jesus, he wasn’t praying to Jesus. He was praying to God the Father in the name of the Son.

Whoever calls on the name of the Son will be granted pardon and freedom by the Father. Whatever you ask of the Father in the name of the Son you will receive.

We pray.

There is a very important, very contested prayer that has been intimately linked to salvation. Can you guess?

That’s right, the good ol’ Sinner’s Prayer.

The Sinner’s Prayer has gotten a bad rap as being the hub of “decisionism.”

Decisionism is an idea that our salvation is sealed when we decide to accept Jesus’ offer of salvation. For some this smacks too much of works and not enough of grace. It represents an immature concept that it is your decision to accept Jesus’ sacrifice that saves you rather than Jesus’ deliberate act of sacrificing Himself that saves you.

The real rub with decisionism and the Sinner’s Prayer is that anybody can hedge their bets by saying a prayer and then go about their merry unrepentant way and say “I’m saved!”

I’ve personally had people tell me that they “would never lead someone through the Sinner’s Prayer” as a means of entering into a saving relationship with Christ. The reasoning is that it creates a presumption of salvation.

A presumption of salvation rarely holds up during trials.

I prayed the Sinner’s Prayer when I was four years old. I chose without my parents’ knowledge to be baptized at five years old.

Yet, I was aware as a child that I continued to sin. I thought mean things, underhandedly picked on my siblings, and had an attitude toward my teachers sometimes.

I distinctly remember sitting in the bathtub at around seven years old praying the Sinner’s Prayer over and over wondering if it really “worked.” Was I really saved; since apparently I was still a bad girl.

Where was the proof that God had accepted me?

I continued into an obsessive compulsive pursuit of holiness in junior high and high school. I was the case in point that religious fervor can make a person insane, as early French psychologists had claimed.

My young “faith” experience was not so unlike Job with his overkill sacrifices for even imagined sins.

But when my bad days came, I wasn’t so sure of my salvation as Job was. I didn’t know the names of Christ on which I could call:

Great Physician, Wonderful Counselor, Balm of Gilead, Suffering Savior tempted in every way like me, Man of Sorrows familiar with every pain, strain, and stress, Bearer of Burdens, Lover of every unlovable personality, Restorer of demoniacs, lepers, and whores, Freedom Fighter for those in bondage and enslaved.

I had relied on the praying of prayers to save me.

It is not praying the Sinner’s Prayer that saves you. It is God answering the Sinner’s Prayer that saves you.

So, if you have prayed the Sinner’s Prayer but hardship has driven you into the wilderness and you’re not sure if you are or ever were saved, my question to you is:

Do you believe that God will answer your request to be saved?

In my wilderness years, I felt God had not answered my sinner’s prayers— years and years of prayers— He had not saved me from psychosis, panic, shame, and “badness.”

At the time, I felt that I had experienced my own death and there was not eternal life on the other side. There was just this expanse of meaninglessness in the 50 or so years I was bound to have left on earth.

I felt completely cut off from God. Whether by His doing or mine, we were not on speaking terms for seven years.

Somewhere within me, I know I still believed that through prayer God stoops down to grip us in His unbreakable grasp. I know this because in the height of my broken-heartedness, I demanded of my mom, “do not pray for me!” 

I didn’t want to deal with God and I knew my odds were best if everyone agreed to disassociate me from prayer.

Not long before the hardest time of my life, I had to yield. I prayed in frustration, “God, if I’m ever gunna come back to You, You have to do it ‘cause I’m not going to.”

And God said back, “Game on.”

I believe that’s the prayer I needed to hear myself pray– the one that was waiting for God to answer.

The few years after I prayed that prayer were filled with a whole lot of things getting worse. They were full of God intervening. During this time I learned how to pray because I learned that God hears.

I learned how to cry out in Jesus’ name because I needed miracles. And the miracles came— such as, “God you have to save my husband, You must!”— or, “please have mercy on my unborn baby, don’t let my medication harm her, please give her a perfect heart.”

Praying over and over, “Mercy, God. Mercy. Mercy, please. Mercy.”

Like Esther, I learned to rush into the throne room unsure of whether the King would allow my petition but sure that my only hope was in asking. (Esther 4:9-5:2)

When he saw Queen Esther standing in the court, he was pleased with her and held out to her the golden scepter that was in his hand. So, Esther approached and touched the tip of the scepter. And he asked, “What is it Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given to you,” Esther 5:2-3.

Esther had been terrified of entering the king’s court without invitation. The law said she could be killed for such presumption. She was scared enough that she had all the Jews in Souza fast and pray for her for three days before she approached her own husband, the king, to ask him for the salvation of herself and her people from a plotted genocide.

She needed permission to ask and the extension of his favor indicating that he was willing to hear. Salvation was already secured when King Xerxes promised to accept Esther’s request.

There was this same saving quality in Job’s prayer for his wicked friends. That quality was that God promised Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar that He would accept Job’s prayer on their behalf.

The Sinner’s Prayer, like every prayer I’ve ever prayed, has no effect outside of God’s promise to accept it.

Did the Sinner’s Prayer make me a Christian? Yes.

Yes, it did. At some point along the way, between praying it at 4 years old and the 29 years since, God accepted that prayer and became my Savior.

I have pretty high confidence that God loves to answer sinners’ prayers.

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Romans 10:13

 

 

 

Too Much Talking

“I know that my Redeemer lives,” Job 19:25

In the nineteenth chapter of Job, we are given an answer to the historical Church’s most driving question: “How is a person saved?”

Christians minister the gospel skillfully in describing who saves– Jesus— and from what– human sinfulness and rebellion— and where– at the cross— and why– for mankind’s reconciliation to God for eternity.

Yet, we get rather clunky and divided trying to explain how a person is saved. What does a person do to enter into a salvation agreement with God? Who initiates? Where do I sign? How do you know the salvation stuck?

The primary schisms among Christian denominations are along the lines of soteriology, meaning “the doctrine of salvation” or “how is a person saved?”

Because salvation is on the premise of faith (“faith has saved you,” Luke 7:50), and because to say you have faith implies a belief in something that is contested, Christians can get really hung up on what beliefs a person should have orbiting about in their faith-sphere if we are going to call them saved.

Interestingly, Job doesn’t wonder about his salvation at all. He shows complete confidence in both the reality of his salvation and the efficacy of his salvation. But he doesn’t have all his beliefs straight:

How long will [Bildad] torture me? How long will you try to crush me with your words? You have already insulted me ten times. You should be ashamed of treating me so badly. Even if I have sinned, that is my concern, not yours. 

You think you’re better than I am, using my humiliation as evidence of my sin. But it is God who has wronged me, capturing me in His net…

But for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, and He will stand upon the earth at last. And after my body has decayed, yet in my body I will see God! I will see Him for myself. Yes, I will see Him with my own eyes. I am overwhelmed at the thought! Job 19:1-6; 25-27

3 Salvation Principles that Job has right:

  1. Job knows that his salvation is between him and God.
  2. Job knows that his salvation shields him from all accusation of sin.
  3. Job knows that the salvation he believes in without seeing will be rewarded with seeing (aka, faith).

6 of Job’s beliefs about God:

  1. His Redeemer is alive (Jesus is eternal and God).
  2. He will stand upon the earth (first and second coming).
  3. After his body decays, yet he will have a body (resurrection).
  4. He will see God with his own eyes (also resurrection).
  5. God has wronged him.
  6. God has captured him in His net.

Job believes some right things and some really wrong things about God.

So, if a saving faith is contingent on having the right beliefs, does Job become more saved the more right things he believes? Or is Job not really saved until after God corrects his misunderstandings?

I used to think it was really cheesy when people would say “Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship.” But it is kinda true at heart.

Sure, we have a religious set of doctrines that we argue over like any religion would. We have religious disciplines that cause us guilt when we don’t perform them. We cloister into communities of closely aligned beliefs, isolating ourselves even from others in our own religion that “aren’t quite right on such and such an interpretation.” We create platforms to do our good deeds and share our good ideas.

I like religion. It’s easy, satisfying, and intellectually stimulating for me. Christianity is a religion. However, Christian salvation is a relationship. It is an ongoing two-way street.

Salvation is like a call and response:

  1. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God. Romans 10:17
  2. Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved. Romans 10:13
  3. My sheep hear my voice, I know them, they follow me. John 10:27
  4. Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts. Hebrews 4:7
  5. But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the Lord; I will wait for the God of my salvation, My God will hear me. Micah 7:7
  6. If you ask the Father for anything in My name, He will give it to you. John 16:23
  7. No one can snatch them away from me, for the Father has given them to me. John 10:28

Here are the verses above organized as a “call and response” flow chart:

  • God speaks His word– We hear it– Faith is kindled.
    • We call on Jesus’ name– Jesus saves us.
      • Jesus knows and leads those who are saved– we hear and follow Him.
        • We hear His voice– we do not harden our hearts (repentance).
          • We wait for the Lord (perseverance) — He hears us.
            • We ask the Father in Jesus’ name– the Father gives to us.
              • Jesus holds us tight– The Father gave us to Jesus.

Really, this turns out to be more of a poem than a flow chart. It reminds me of Song of Songs. It’s like two people singing choruses of a duet back and forth to each other, the melodies echoing across a valley of opposing ridges. It’s like a young man and a young woman experiencing a touch and… then a response. It is like two people searching for each other.

How is one saved?

C.H. Spurgeon says that it “is joy unspeakable” to call Jesus, my Lord.

Spurgeon adds that we are saved, first, by claiming the Redeemer as “mine.” My Redeemer lives.

Then you call out and hear. You ask and see answers. Or, you ask and you wait. He speaks and you come close. He awakens your faith and you yield your heart softly. You tearfully ask Him hard questions about Himself. He confides in you more. You misunderstand Him and you get mopey. He sweeps you up in the whirlwind. You might believe the wrong things about Him, but He will gladly prove you wrong, and win you over again.

Salvation is a call and response.

My lover is mine, and I am his. Song of Songs 2:16

 

 

 

 

 

Too Much Talking

“Go to my servant Job and offer a burnt offering for yourselves.” Job 42:8

Today is Maundy Thursday, “New Command Thursday.” At Jesus’ last Passover meal, He commanded His disciples to “love one another.” He then took bread and wine and instituted the ordinance of Communion in remembrance of Him.

Jesus joined together our remembrance of how we were reconciled to God with a command to be reconciled to one another. Love one another and remember me.

The Corinthians were famously and sternly chastised for showing disdain for Communion by simultaneously degrading the poor believers and preferring the rich believers in how they served Communion. Paul even postulated in 1 Corinthians that God was cutting off the lives of some believers before they could damage their witness anymore than they had already with this egregious divorcing of the remembrance of Jesus’ atoning work from the Maundy Thursday command to love your brothers and sisters in Christ.

And as we have watched the whole Gospel be prophetically unveiled in Job, the continual reminder of Communion is not overlooked in the Job narrative– that the body and blood of Christ was broken and spilled not just for our atonement and reconciliation to God but also for our reconciliation to each other.

Just as we are proclaimed blameless in faith, Job was proclaimed blameless in faith before it was proven by trial (James 1:2-3). Just as God achieves that blamelessness in us as He transforms us through the trials of Christian life, Job’s blamelessness was both started by God and completed by God. Just as God revealed a greater understanding of Himself to Job as Job contemplated a future Redeemer, Mediator, and Advocate, we receive the very Revelation of God when we receive a very present Jesus. And God had already accepted Job’s sin offerings in Job 1, but He still required a guilt offering between Job and his friends, so has God already accepted Jesus as our sin offering, yet requires us to continually recall that Jesus is also the peace offering and the guilt offering between ourselves and other people.

There are five categories of sacrifices and offerings in the Torah. And Jesus has fulfilled them all. Yet, we do participate in these Old Testament sacrifices and rituals in the two ordinances that the Reformers continued to honor as essential to the faith.

We explored the first one in the last post. That is baptism. Our purification bath, required by the law, but we do it only once because Jesus was the last necessary purification sacrifice and therefore we need only a last purification bath when we proclaim dependence on Christ for our purification from sin and death.

But Communion– the peace and guilt offerings– we remember continually throughout our Christian walk. And we partake in it at church together.

Of the five types of offerings described in Leviticus 1-7, two were to reconcile men to each other.

A peace offering, also called a fellowship offering, established something like a contract between two parties. It signified before God that they were committed to fellowship with each other and were dedicated to each others’ future prosperity. This is the kind of offering Abraham shared with Melchizedek in Genesis 14; and that Abraham shared with the three visiting angels in Genesis 18.

A guilt offering was an offering that one person offered before God to another person if something the first person had done caused a loss to the second. The guilt offering also included a monetary compensation.

Job’s friends were probably offering a guilt offering to him. They nearly cost him his faith. God saw their sin against Job and demanded that for them to be right with Him they had to get right with Job.

This principle is reiterated to us by Jesus in Matthew 5:23, part of the Sermon on the Mount: “So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God.”

This sheds light on the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us our sins as we forgive one another.”

As in everything, Jesus is the all-encompassing sacrifice. He has done a completed work.

However, He puts a collective impetus on us to specifically and frequently remember the aspect of His sacrifice that was done to unify us to one another. If we are partakers in His sacrifice for our sins, we are also partakers in His sacrifice for our offenses to our brothers and sisters in the church.

This is Communion. It is Jesus as the sacrifice Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar had to make to Job.

After the Lord finished speaking to Job, he said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has. So take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer a burnt offering for yourselves. Job 42:7-8

God deals with us individually and he deals with us collectively. He died for each of us individually and He died collectively for His Body.

His body was broken that we may be unified.

I am praying not just for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one– as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me. John 17:20-23

 

 

 

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.