Wednesday, June 22, 2016


Reflections on the Old Testament: Job and Psalms

 

“Oh, that the Almighty would answer me, that my Prosecutor had written a book! Surely I would carry it on my shoulder, and bind it on me like a crown; I would declare to Him the number of my steps; like a prince I would approach Him.”—Job 31:35-37, NKJV

Again, Job illustrates the importance of Christ and the gospel in our lives, as he yearns for an intermediary between him and God. Prior to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God appeared to man in a harsher light. Rigorous laws were written, severe judgement was erected, and in general there was a sense of fear associated with God.

This may seem strange to us, who are used to viewing God as our Heavenly Father and Jesus, His Son, as a gentle Friend. But before Christ came and gave us the gospel, God was more or less a mystery. The pervading theme of Job seems to be the frustration and misery of feeling cut off from God: time and time again, Job yearns to speak with God, to demand a trial before being condemned. The truth is that mankind was condemned the very instant Adam ate the forbidden fruit. God examined us and found us guilty, and the adversary points out our flaws to Him day after day after day.

Sinners fear God because He is sinless; He is the Almighty, the Most High, the LORD of lords, but because of our sin we can have no communion with Him and we can utter not a word in our defense. Indeed, wretched and filthy as we are, our case seems entirely a hopeless one, but in Job 31:35, Job inadvertently hits upon hope.

“Oh, that the Almighty would answer me, that my Prosecutor had written a book!”

Job’s tone is one of idle wishful-thinking, but modern Christians should instantly recognize the implication of his words. Who is the “Prosecutor” in this verse? It seems strange, but it is God. Our sin condemns us in the sight of the Most High. So what is the significance of “our Prosecutor” writing a book? Perhaps Job’s statement was not as inadvertent as I supposed. It can mean nothing less than the Bible itself, the inspired Word of God. Furthermore, from the first section of the Book of John, we know that the Word of God and Christ are One.

Our Prosecutor has written a book, and this Word, which “became flesh and dwelt among us,” is our Defender, our Savior, and our Mediator. Through Him we speak to God, and He answers us. He is no longer our Prosecutor, but our Father. The veil is torn from the Most Holy Place, and “like a prince [we may] approach Him.” No longer as the Accused do we appear before Him, but as His children. This is the significance of the Word. “Surely I would carry it on my shoulder, and bind it on me like a crown.”

 

Observe that, in Job 42:3, Job quotes God’s words, “Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?” in reference to his own discourse, not that of Elihu (which God seemed to disregard altogether).

And yet, it seems strange that the entire book of Job should be dedicated to the erroneous ramblings of sinful men—which brings me to another question: why does God first call Job a “righteous and blameless man” and then reprimand him for pride and error?

If Job had lived some thousand years later, it would all make sense: through Christ, we are made righteous and blameless in spirit, although in our flesh we still fall and must be corrected by God. But Job was living before the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ!

We can assume, based on the fact that the sins of Job’s friends were atoned for by sacrificial offerings prescribed by God, that righteousness of spirit in God’s sight, before the time of Christ, was attained through the proper execution of the established sacrifices and regulations. This fits into the New Testament teaching, that Jesus Christ was the final sacrifice for our sin, paying the price once and for all, and thus making salvation available to all mankind, not just the Jews.

 

“Put them in fear, O LORD, that the nations may know themselves to be but men.”—Psalm 9:20, NKJV

Things like fear, pain, and sadness are direct results of the Fall—they go hand in hand with the knowledge of good and evil. As unpleasant as it is, we must accept the harsh realities of our world and adapt ourselves to them, knowing full well that they are the result of our own sin. Similarly, God also “adapted,” in a sense, to the unhappy circumstances into which Adam and Eve led us, in that, rather than simply destroying Satan immediately and “putting everything back together,” which He most certainly could have done, He sent His Son to die on the cross in order to purge us of our sin. By bearing our sin, Jesus Christ took upon Himself the wretched and intensely acute fear, pain, and sorrow of being entirely cut off from God. Why God chose this painful path is a discussion for another time. The point I would now like to emphasize is that those three experiences—fear, pain, and sorrow, and specifically, in this discussion, fear—are vital to our existence as fallen beings. Although these may simply seem like troublesome obstacles which we must overcome, it is evident that God uses them time and time again in order to work His will. For example, let’s look again at Ps. 9:20. “Put them in fear, O LORD, that the nations may know themselves to be but men.”

“Fear” is a complex and multi-faceted word. Although its more generic definition is simply “terror,” it, more accurately denotes the feeling of helplessness and insufficiency in the face of a force more powerful than yourself, concerning which you have little or no knowledge.

This definition might, at a glance, seem far-fetched, but I can guarantee that the most terrible human fears always spring from a feeling of insufficiency or helplessness. For example, death is the most common, and the most terrible, fear among unbelievers, because it is utterly unknown and mysterious to them, and because they can do nothing to prevent it. They may put it off for a time, but eventually they must face it, and, in that regard, they are entirely at its mercy. At the core of every human being lies a similar fear of God. As sinners, we are alienated from God; we have no communion with Him, but are as “filthy rags” in His presence. Recognizing our own helplessness and insufficiency, in addition to our general state of uncleanness, we stand amazed at God’s holiness, purity, and awesome power, and we are struck with fear, as, in our lowly state, we can do nothing to save ourselves from the inevitable judgement of this Most High God.

Although this knowledge gnaws at the conscience of every human, it is seldom acknowledged, but is shoved aside by futile pretenses such as “disbelief” in God.

The Book of Proverbs states a number of times that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom.” In order to teach His chosen ones wisdom, God awakens the afore-described fear of Him within our beings, but along with it, He introduces the good news of Jesus Christ, i.e., the glorious transaction which rescues our souls from their otherwise unavoidable damnation. This latter knowledge eliminates the horror of our own insufficiency and lowliness, and leaves only an awestruck reverence for God’s omnipotence, holiness, and purity—not to mention the scarcely believable love and mercy which He so bountifully bestows upon us. Because, according to Scripture, we cannot learn wisdom until we learn fear, we see that fear is vital to our existence. Do not marvel, then, that David urges the LORD  to put the nations in fear, “that [they] may know themselves to be but men.”

 

“Break the arm of the wicked and evil man; seek out his wickedness until You find none.”—Psalm 10:15, NKJV

Nine times out of ten, in order to purge us of our wickedness, God must first break us.

The first and most important part of salvation is belief in Christ, the Son of God, and confession of our sin to Him. This is the foundation of our faith, the first step of our walk with God. Once this foundation is laid, the rest of our lives are spent, or should be spent, drawing closer to God and growing in Him. It is during this time that the “breaking” takes place.

The foundation is laid: now the debris of our old life must be cleaned up to make room for the new building. If we are really on fire for God, as new believers usually are, we will fervently pray that He will cleanse us and build up our new man. Ironically, quite often, it is when God answers this prayer that much of our fire goes out. Perhaps that is because we spend more time looking forward to spiritual enlightenment than preparing ourselves for a destruction of inner evil. We will certainly be granted spiritual enlightenment, but not until our obstructive wickedness has been destroyed.
God searches the very depths of our being, penetrating our loaded vaults of dirty secrets and heinous deeds, flinging upon us the horrible consequences of each and every one, until they are entirely accounted for—i.e., until no wickedness remains. (We have Christ to thank that we reach that point at all.) When we ask God to heal us, we must be willing to let Him break us first.