I.Theme – Dealing with adversaries
"Aging Grace" – Photograph by Fe Langdon at Rio Grande State Park (2011)
The lectionary readings are here or individually:
The lectionary reading this week concerns those dealing with adversaries:
-Job vs. 3 friends
-Psalmist vs. those who are deceitful
-Paul vs. those in church misinterpreting Paul’s view on end times
-Jesus against some Sadducees
Job knew he was innocent and had the sense to place his faith and trust in God despite being tempted with friends. The psalmist in Psalm 17 uses prayer. Psalm 17 gave us a model of such prayer, asking for divine deliverance. Paul’s foundation rests with the sanctifying work of the spirit.
The key is finding something of strength whether God, prayer or Jesus teaching on Grace and not give into worry or fear so to have your confidence shaken. We need to be grounded so to avoid tempation shifting us away from our beliefs.
The book of Job is about suffering: it seeks to answer the question: why does God allow the faithful to suffer
Job is a man who is wise, rich, and good. Then suddenly terrible things happen to him. His ten children are killed. He loses all his wealth. And he becomes ill with a painful skin disease.
The devil caused Job’s troubles (Job 1:12; Job 2:6-7). But Job did not know this fact. So Job thought that God caused the problems (Job 19:1-12). In fact, God did not cause Job’s troubles. God merely permitted Job to suffer. Still, Job trusted God. And Job refused to insult God (Job 2:9-10).
Three friends come to visit him, and they try to explain to Job why these bad thing have happened. They tell Job that sin caused his suffering and God was punishing him. Job insists it is not true, but no one believes him. Job becomes very discouraged and angry but he still believes God cares about him, although he don’t understand why he must suffer so.
God says that Job’s friends didn’t know what they were talking about. Finally, God restores Job’s health, makes him twice as rich as he had been before, and gives him ten more children.
In this section, he is conversation with one of the 3 friends, Bildad
Verses 25-27 may be the most important verses in the Book of Job. Elsewhere Job explained his troubles, fears and doubts. But in these verses, Job explained the reasons why he still had hope.
Elsewhere Job had been doubtful whether he could ever prove himself innocent. He prayed. But he was not sure that God would ever help him. But in these verses, Job felt confident again.
Elsewhere, Job argued that death would be the end of everything. He did not think that a dead person could ever live again. But in these verses, Job was sure that God could make a dead person live again. And Job believed that he himself would meet God.
Job used a special word in verse 25. In the original language of the book (called Hebrew) this word is GOEL. A GOEL frees someone by either of two particular methods. Either the GOEL may pay a debt for that person. Or the GOEL may fight to free the person. The English word for GOEL is a redeemer.
In Job 19:25, Job uses this special word to describe God. At last, Job trusts God completely. God will rescue Job, even if God has to take Job from the grave to save him. God will rescue Job, even if God must pay to rescue him. And God will rescue Job even if God must fight for Job.
Job realised that his body would die. But Job now knew that death would not be the end. In verse 26, the words ‘in my body’ might mean ‘without my body’. The translation is difficult but the meaning of Job’s words seems clear. After Job’s death, Job would see God. And Job desired that day, like Paul in Philippians 1:21-23.
The psalmist prays for deliverance from accusers who behave deceitfully.
At some point in life, we all face an opponent, someone who actively blocks our plans, ambitions, or our movement. Their opposition can be based on principle or simply upon a mean spirit. Their efforts seem to be unbending and relentless. What can we do? Our only recourse is prayer.
How do we address God in this trying time? Psalm 17 gave us a model of such prayer. The focus of prayer bounced between the supplicant, God, and the adversary. The following is an outline of the psalm, along with comments:
17:1-2 Introduction: Prayer for vindication against enemies. The supplicant claims the prayer was just (or is addressed to a just God, depending upon the translation of the Hebrew), then declared himself as innocent (“lips free of deceit”). Justice and innocence set the tone of the psalm.
17:3-5 Defense of innocence and righteousness. The supplicant asked YHWH to test him in the three arenas of faithfulness: intent (the heart in 17:3a), speech (the mouth in 17:3b), and action (the steps and feet in 17:5). The time of test seemed dark (visit the supplicant at night in 17:3a), but the supplicant observed the Law without fault (“shunned the way of the violent and held to the way of the Lord” in 17:4b-5a; the way of YHWH echoed the Exodus experience).
17:6-7 Declaration of YHWH’s covenant love and faithfulness. In 17:7, the declaration of “steadfast love” was a reference to God’s offer of the covenant with Israel. The supplicant based his prayer in the context of YHWH’s relationship with his people.
17:8-9 Prayer for deliverance (Part I). The prayer began with an appeal of divine attention and protection. “Keep me in sight (in the apple of your eye)” meant “look upon me with kindness and approval.” “Hide me in the shadow of your wing” referred either to the way large birds (eagles?) protect their young with their wings or to protective shadow of the winged cherubim that surrounded the divine throne.
17:10-12 Description of the adversaries as evil. The three arenas of faithfulness were again alluded to. The hearts (intent) of the enemy were closed to pity; their mouths (speech) spoke arrogantly (17:10). Their feet (action) tracked down the supplicant (17:11a). In all three cases, the focus of the opponent was on the destruction of the righteous, not on the Torah; in other words, the supplicant implied his enemies were law-breakers.
In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul has stated that, when Christ comes again, both the faithful who have died and those still alive will be “gathered together to him”, i.e. Christ. But it seems that a person thinking himself inspired by God (“spirit”, v. 2) or by just saying it (“word”), or in a letter supposedly from Paul (“as though from us”) claims that the new era (“the day of the Lord”) has already dawned, that the future is already here.
The author of this book insists that this is not so, that God’s kingdom is still in the formative stage, for certain events must first occur: first there will be “rebellion”, (v. 3, a general revolt against God), and then the “lawless one”, the Devil, the full extent of evil, will be fully seen. But, says v. 6, the forces of evil are held partly in check, although they are active in the world, via false teaching (“power, signs, lying wonders”, v. 9). When the Devil does show himself fully, Christ will annihilate him and all who “refused to love the truth” (v. 10). God sends the current trials to separate out the unfaithful (v. 11) so that these people will be “condemned” (v. 12).
But the author thanks God for those who are faithful at Thessalonica, because “God chose you” (v. 13) for admission to his kingdom (“salvation”, v. 13, “the glory of … Christ”, v. 14), to be forerunners (the “first fruits”, v. 13, of the harvest were God’s) of other faithful who will come later, through being set apart for him (“sanctification”) through the Holy Spirit and through their faith. They will share with Christ in union with God. So, readers, remain faithful to the doctrines (“traditions”, v. 15) you received verbally and via authentic letters.
The Sadducees were among those who sought to trap Jesus into contravening the Law as he taught daily in the Temple. They did not believe in the resurrection because they found no mention of it in the first five books of the Bible.
19:47-48 says that Jesus taught daily in the Temple. The religious authorities “kept looking for a way to kill him, but they did not find anything they could do …”. The Sadducees held that only the first five books of the Old Testament, the Pentateuch, were authoritative. Not finding mention of life after death in these books, they rejected its existence.
In vv. 28-33, seeking to trap Jesus into speaking against the Law, they ask a question about levirate marriage (levir is Latin for brother-in-law): a man lived on (in a sense) in his son, so if a man died without issue, his brother was required to marry his widow and give her a son, thus continuing his lineage. “This age” (v. 34) is the current era; “that age” (v. 35) is the era to come, when Christ returns. In God’s kingdom, marriage will no longer exist; those who are admitted into eternal life for their faith (“considered worthy of a place …”, v. 35) will all be “children of God” (v. 36): this will be their family relationship. They will be immortal (“cannot die anymore”) and will be like “angels” (considered sexless in Jesus’ time).
In vv. 37-38, Jesus argues for life after death (and resurrection) from the Pentateuch. In the story of the burning “bush”, God tells Moses: “I am the God of Abraham …”. Because God says is (not was), Abraham is alive now. He died, so he must have been brought back to life, resurrected. God is truly “God … of the living” (v. 38).
In v. 39, some scribes, believers in resurrection, are pleased with Jesus’ argument. V. 40 says that the Sadducees “no longer dared to ask … [Jesus] another question”: Jesus has evaded the trap.
III. Articles for this week in WorkingPreacher:
Job – Job 19:23-27a
Psalm – Psalm 17:1-9
2 Thessalonians – 2 Thessalonians 2:1-5, 13-17
Luke – Luke 20:27-38