Thanks

Hey, Scroll Eaters! I just wanted to say to everyone thanks for the support, but I’ve decided to discontinue this blog.

It’s a big time-consumer, and I just don’t have enough of it! It was short, but sweet, and I thank those of you who were a part of it.

The Lord bless you and keep you.

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All Apologies

Hello, Scroll Eaters! I just want to quickly apologize for the lack of posts. I’ve gotten behind and I don’t think I’ll try to catch up. I’ll just jump back in when I can. I’m in a busy week at work, plus I was out of town this weekend, plus I’ve started teaching a class at church. So, less time + more obligations = falling behind here. I’ll get back soon. Thanks for being understanding.

The Lord bless you and keep you.

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The Developing Doctrine of Resurrection [Job 22-24]

Hello, Scroll Eaters! My post today doesn’t have anything to do with the reading. I’m going to take today to do an excursus on the development of the doctrine of resurrection in the Old Testament. If you’ve ever studied theology in depth, you may have learned that revelation is progressive. God reveals truth in progressive succession. In other words, God tells us A before B. For instance, God doesn’t reveal that he is the only God until Deuteronomy 6. In fact, the early Hebrews may not have been monotheists; they were likely henotheists. Henotheism is the belief that there are many gods, but that one particular god is supreme. In most polytheistic cultures, gods are seen as geographical entities. There is a god in Canaan, but he isn’t very powerful in Babylon, for example. The Egyptian gods are supreme in Egypt, but weak in Cush. Abraham was taught that his God was actually supreme over all, not geographically limited. The Hebrews in captivity knew that their God was supreme over the Egyptian gods, even though they were in Egypt! However, this did not necessarily mean they discounted the existence of those Gods. In fact, if you read closely, you’ll see that God simply says in the first of the Ten Commandments, with the bold for emphasis, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:2-3 NASB). Notice that God doesn’t say he’s the only God. Contrast that to this statement from Habakkuk 2:18-19 NASB, “What profit is the idol when its maker has carved it, or an image, a teacher of falsehood? For its maker trusts in his own handiwork when he fashions speechless idols. “Woe to him who says to a piece of wood, ‘Awake!’ To a dumb stone, ‘Arise!’ And that is your teacher? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all inside it.” That’s definitely not henotheism. The first outright statement of monotheism is much later than Exodus.

The point of all this is to point out that revelation is progressive. You don’t build a doctrine of the Trinity until you kill the heresy of polytheism and then the heresy of henotheism. Once they understand God is One (Deuteronomy 6:4), then later you can explain to them God is Triune without confusing them back into polytheism.

The doctrine of resurrection is progressive as well. We don’t see the idea of bodily resurrection until Daniel, which is much later in the Old Testament. In the New Testament it’s a given. It’s up in the air in David’s time; David makes statements that could go either way. Job is the earliest book in the Bible, and Job is the time of Abraham, if not earlier.

In chapter 7:21 we read in Job’s prayer, “For now I will lie down in the dust; And Thou wilt seek me, but I will not be.”

In 10:21-22 we read “Before I go– and I shall not return– to the land of darkness and deep shadow; the land of utter gloom as darkness itself, of deep shadow without order, and which shines as the darkness.”

In Job 14:7-14  “For there is hope for a tree, when it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and its shoots will not fail. Though its roots grow old in the ground, and its stump dies in the dry soil, at the scent of water it will flourish and put forth sprigs like a plant. But man dies and lies prostrate. Man expires, and where is he? As water evaporates from the sea, and a river becomes parched and dried up, so man lies down and does not rise. Until the heavens be no more, he will not awake nor be aroused out of his sleep. Oh that thou wouldst hide me in the grave, that Thou wouldst conceal me until Thy wrath returns to Thee, that Thou wouldst set a limit for me and remember me! If a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my struggle I will wait, until my change comes.”

In Job 16:22, we read, “For when a few years are past, I shall go the way of no return.”

Finally, Job 19:25-27 says, “And as for me, I know that my redeemer lives, and at the last He will take His stand on the earth. Even after my skin is destroyed, yet from my flesh I shall see God; whom I myself shall behold, and whom my eyes shall see and not another. My heart faints within me.” This one is as close as we get to a hope in an afterlife, but it’s not a full afterlife perspective; he simply wants to see God “from my flesh.”

So, the afterlife in Job is not a promise – it’s a hope or wish. Could God? Yes. Will God? No.

For Monday, read Job 25-28.

The Lord bless you and keep you.

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A New Way to Read Job [Job 18-21]

Hello, Scroll Eaters! Today we want to take a quick look at a different way to read Job. Now, we’re reading straight through, and I’m not attempting usurp that, but I do want to offer a different way to read to read Job for your future study. To be precise, it’s a different way to read the Cycles of Dialog. One way to understand what Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Job are saying is to read all their respective speeches together, without reading the others in between.  So, read all of Eliphaz’s speeches together, and you’ll get a very pure image of what his argument is, without the “confusion” of three other men’s ideas. Let me break it down the respective chapters, just for the sake of ease.

Eliphaz: 4-5, 15, 22
Bildad: 8, 18, 25
Zophar: 11, 20
Job 6-7, 9-10, 12-14, 16-17, 19, 21, 23-24, 26-27

There’s one more thing to say about the doctrine of divine retribution. The doctrine is obviously far more important (in this book) to the friends than to Job or to God (not that it’s unimportant to God!). In other words, the friends’ image of God is more important than God in actuality.

Here’s an interesting bit of statistical analysis, if you’re into that sort of thing. Let’s compare the number of verses that Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar spend on the three topics associated with divine retribution in this book: God, Job, and “the wicked.”

Eliphaz on God: 33
Eliphaz on Job: 50
Eliphaz on Wicked: 45

Bildad on God: 12
Bildad on Job: 12
Bildad on Wicked: 25.5

Zophar on God: 12
Zophar on Job: 15
Zophar on Wicked: 27

As you can see, for the three friends, the topic of God is less important to them than Job and the Wicked. As the book of Job makes clear, the problem is not the doctrine of divine retribution. It is not impuned in the book. It is a real doctrine. The problem in Job is the application.

The Friends support the doctrine of divine retribution with their pro: Fate of the wicked – they perish.
Job opposes the the doctrine, saying it’s not right, with his con: Fate of the wicked – they prosper.

The Friends claim Job is unrighteous. Job claims God is unjust.

Job’s claim is “I am righteous.” The friends counter with “You’re doctrine is wrong.”
Job’s claim is “God is unjust.” As we’ll see, God’s response: “You are unjust.”

Tomorrow, read Job 22-24.

The Lord bless you and keep you.

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The Cycle of Not-Much-to-Say [Job 18-21]

Hello, Scroll Eaters! Okay, so, the three friends believe God is punishing Job for some sin and Job says he’s innocent, and they debate.

After Job’s cathartic meltdown in chapter 3, the friends start telling Job what do to (for the record, that’s not always the best “help” you can give a struggling friend; sometimes you just be there – the ministry of presence). What I’d like to do today is give you the structure and outline of the dialog section. Not counting Job’s opening monologue in chapter 3, it breaks down into three cycles of conversation.

Each cycle follows the pattern of the three friends speaking in order of age, alternating with Job. So, it goes Eliphaz, Job, Bildad, Job, Zophar, Job. Each cycle is a little shorter than the one previous to it. It’s as if the three friends run out of steam as they get more and more frustrated with Job’s bullheaded claim to innocence. They never really develop their arguments. The idea in the ancient Near-Eastern debate is not the same tradition we Westerners think of as debate. We come from a Greek and Roman tradition of argumentation by points and logic. The ancient Near-Eastern idea did have points and logic, but was more concerned with the repetition of the same idea in different ways. The idea was to out-think your opponent. We can summarize it by saying that this debate had two objectives. The first is to restate your viewpoint creatively and clearly (in other words, if you don’t reach them, try again). The second objective is to be the last one talking. It’s not about rebuttals, it’s about outlasting your opponent. Again, the idea is that if you believe your point you’ll stick to it and no one can shut you up. No one can change your mind. So, if you keep talking, you win. (After all, we can and will talk forever about that which we know nothing about!) As a whole, the three cycles teach the ineffectiveness of argument alone – it has a place, but love is the more excellent way.

Here are the three cycles and their outlines.

1st Cycle:               Chapters
Eliphaz                    4-5
Job                           6-7
Bildad                      8
Job                           9-10
Zophar                    11
Job                           12-14

2nd Cycle                Chapters
Eliphaz                    15
Job                           16-17
Bildad                      18
Job                           19
Zophar                    20
Job                           21

3rd Cycle                Chapters
Eliphaz                    22
Job                           23-24
Bildad                      25
Job                           26-27
Zophar                    Does not speak
Job                          No reply needed.

For tomorrow, Scroll Eaters, we read Job 22-24.

The Lord bless you and keep you

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The Doctrine of Divine Retribution [Job 14-17]

Hello, Scroll Eaters! Today we look at what the debate between Job and his friends was all about. After seven days of amazing silence, Job, in chapter 3, begins to lament his condition, and it’s brutal. I don’t mean the situation is brutal. It is, but I mean Job’s speech in chapter 3 is brutal. When he finishes, his friends begin to tell him their idea of what must be going on. In a nutshell, they believe in the “doctrine of divine retribution.” Divine retribution is the idea that God will return vengeance or justice for wrong-doing. In short, God punishes sin. In simplistic terms, the divine retribution sees all negative situations as God’s punishment, and all positive situations as God’s blessings. If seen in these simplistic terms, this leads to the question, “Why does God bless the wicked and punish the righteous?” Why do the wicked prosper in this age if the doctrine of divine retribution is true. And by the way, it is a true doctrine; it’s taught all over the Bible, but specifically in Proverbs. The missing element in the three friends’ arguments is time. God will bless the righteous eternally and curse the wicked eternally, all in good time. Until then, we have to trust that God knows what he’s doing when we see “innocent suffering” and “wicked blessings.” In other words, we have to trust God’s sovereignty. Oh, and God makes this exact point to Job, which is why I bring it up!
“I couldn’t tell you why good people suffer.
I couldn’t tell you why the bad ones are free.
God showers blessings on the righteous and the wicked.
I only know that that covers me.”
– “Why Good People Suffer” by the Christian band Stavesacre.

 

For tomorrow, read Job 18-21.

The Lord bless you and keep you.

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With Friends Like These… [Job 10-13]

Hello, Scroll Eaters! Let’s meet Job’s friends.

In wisdom thought, the older you are the wiser you are. So, they are introduced in order of age. Eliphaz is the oldest. He’s more of a visionary than the others, a mystic. He mentions angels and spirits more than the others. Also, he’s the gentlest. Bildad is the middle man, if you will. He’s not too gentle, not to harsh. He’s the traditionalist of the bunch, holding the “Divine Retribution” stance. He never uses “I,” “Me,” or “My” – he has no original thought. Zophar is the youngest, and therefore the harshest. He’s the most dogmatic and passionate.

Everything starts out well. “Now when Job’s three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, they came each one from his own place, … and they made an appointment together to come to sympathize with him and comfort him. And when they lifted up their eyes at a distance, and did not recognize him, they raised their voices and wept. And each of them tore his robe, and they threw dust over their heads toward the sky. Then they sat down on the ground with him for seven days and seven nights with no one speaking a word to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.”

I find it amazing every time I read it. They just sit there with him for a week, without speaking. I head a preacher mention it just this weekend and say, “What a ministry!” They truly had the right to be called “friends.”

They messed up when they opened their mouths. How’s that for a lesson?

Tomorrow, read Job 14-17.

The Lord bless you and keep you.

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