Daily Archives: July 30, 2014

Miscellaneous Bible Questions: Was It Unfair for God to Allow Job to Suffer over What Was Basically an Argument between God and Satan?

 

A surface reading of the book of Job usually evokes a reaction such as “Why is God making a ‘bet’ with the devil? God is being unfair to Job!” If we are honest and not just trying to defend God, He seems at first like some kind of cosmic ogre. God not only wagered Satan over the outcome of Job’s trials, but He actually provoked the bet (Job 1–2). To make matters worse, Job never finds out why he was afflicted in the first place. This is very disturbing for those who hope to see God as just, gracious and loving and not just “playing” with us as if we were pawns on a chessboard. So, in a way, the story of Job puts God on trial. To really understand what is going on in Job, we need to evaluate how this “trial” is litigated in the book’s argument.

On the surface, when God finally “testifies” in Job 38–42, the way He “grills” Job may seem to suggest that God is “against” Job rather than “for” him. The God-speeches are notable for their deep sarcasm, as if God were simply highlighting Job’s cluelessness (Job 38–39). However, a deeper look reveals a more redemptive dynamic in this trial: first, Job’s friend Elihu actually serves under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, both as Job’s advocate before God and God’s advocate before Job (Job 32–37); second, we find that God indeed did express His love to Job, both in His speeches (Job 38–41) and in finally vindicating Job. God confirms that Job had spoken “what was right” about Him, whereas his first three friends had not (42:7).

As Job and his friends debate God’s fairness, it becomes apparent that all of them basically believe in the doctrine of “retribution theology”—every act receives just punishment or reward in this present life, so we should be able to tell who is righteous or wicked by whether they are visibly blessed or cursed on earth. This is a false doctrine, but Job thought it should be true and went on the offensive, charging God with injustice and calling for a trial (Job 29–31). Surprisingly, God condescends and agrees to be put on trial. The speeches in Job 38–41 actually consist of God’s testimony in His own defense. In the “trial” we see that Job has no legal standing to convict God. Job cannot demonstrate how God runs the universe, so he cannot present any evidence of injustice (chapters 38–39). Also, God establishes His absolute right to act as He sees fit. As proof, He points to two creatures—behemoth and leviathan—that mankind has no control over whatsoever and that answer only to God.

Even before God shows up, Elihu makes the same points and argues that God is deeply redemptive in His dealings with man in spite of man’s notorious tendency toward self-destruction (32–37). Since God validates Elihu’s points (38–41), the adversarial tone in God’s answer to Job makes even more sense: throughout Job’s dialogue with his friends (4–27) and in his formal complaint to God (29–31), Job had assumed that God was unaware of what happened to him or that He was deliberately persecuting him or that Job had inadvertently sinned and God was not willing to tell him what the problem was. Job thought he was being punished entirely out of proportion to any conceivable offense he may have committed. In fact, Job questions God incessantly throughout the dialogue. His protest climaxes in a direct indictment of God on the charge of injustice (29–31).

So what did Job “get right” (42:7)? The upshot of the trial is that Job finally sees that God’s governance of the universe is much more wonderful than he could have imagined, and he openly concedes this (42:2–5); so this is what Job spoke about God that was “right” (42:7). Now, it is absolutely crucial to note the sequence of events at this point: it is only when Job obeys God and intercedes on behalf of his three friends—who had now become his enemies—that God actually blesses Job with a twofold inheritance (42:8–17). This “reward” was not at all some kind of “consolation prize” for Job’s unfair treatment; rather, it was the inheritance God promises to all who serve faithfully as redemptive agents of the Creator (cf. Daniel 12:3). Job obeyed God and was rewarded for his obedience.

In the end, God’s wager with Satan actually achieved an incredible coup: He harnessed evil and turned it to good (cf. Genesis 50:20), and He transformed Job into the most effective servant of all, one who took on God’s own redemptive character and loved his enemies. And this, in fact, is our take-home lesson from Job.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about the Holy Spirit: What Is the Spiritual Gift of Discerning Spirits?

 

The gift of discerning spirits, or “distinguishing” spirits, is one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit described in 1 Corinthians 12:4–11. Like all these gifts, the gift of discerning spirits is one of the gifts believers are given by the Holy Spirit, who disperses these gifts to individuals for service in the body of Christ. Every believer has spiritual enablement and capacity for a specific service, but there is no room for self-choosing. The Spirit distributes spiritual gifts according to the sovereignty of God and in accordance with His plan to edify the body of Christ.

When it comes to the gift of discerning spirits, every born again believer has a certain amount of discernment which increases as the believer matures in the Spirit. In Hebrews 5:13–14 we read that a believer who has matured beyond using the milk of the Word as a babe in Christ is able to discern both good and evil. Not only is the maturing believer empowered by the Spirit of God through the Scriptures to tell the difference between good and evil, but also between what is good and what is better. In other words, any born again believer who chooses to focus upon the Word of God may be enabled to be spiritually discerning.

There are certain individuals, however, who have the God-given ability to distinguish between the truth of the Scriptures and erroneous and deceptive doctrines propagated by demons. Although we are all exhorted to be spiritually discerning (Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1), some in the body of Christ have been given the unique ability to “spot” the forgeries in doctrine that have plagued the church since the first century. But this does not involve a mystical, extra-biblical revelation or a voice from God. Rather, the spiritually discerning among us are so familiar with the Word of God that they instantly recognize what is contrary to it. They do not receive special messages from God; they use the Word of God to “test the spirits” to see which line up with God and which are in opposition to Him. The spiritually discerning are those who “rightly divide” (2 Timothy 2:15) the Word of God in a thoughtful and diligent manner.

As the Apostle Paul writes, there may be diversities of equipping in the body of Christ, but those diversities are meant for the edification and building of that body as a whole. And the success of that body is dependent upon all parts of the body faithfully fulfilling their place in the body as God has enabled them. No spiritual gift should be used to “lord it over” others or claim for oneself a special anointing from God. Rather, the love of God is to be the basis of how we use our spiritual gifts to edify or build up each other in the Lord.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Questions about Creation: What Was the Firmament in the Bible?

 

The “firmament” (from the Latin firmamentum, meaning “sky” or “expanse”) is mentioned 17 times in the King James Version of the Bible and refers to the expanse of the heavens above the earth.

Nine of the occurrences of firmament are in the first chapter of the Bible as part of the creation account. Genesis 1:6–8 says, “And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.” The “firmament” is called “heaven”; i.e., it is what people see when they stand outside and look up. It is the space which includes the earth’s atmosphere and the celestial realm. In the firmament, we see the sun, moon, and stars; in modern translations the firmament is often called the “expanse” or the “sky.”

Genesis says that the firmament “separated the water under the expanse from the water above it” (Genesis 1:7). Originally, God created the earth with water “under” the sky (terrestrial and subterranean water) and water “above” the sky—possibly a “water canopy” which enwrapped the earth in a protective layer. Or, the waters above the firmament could simply be a reference to clouds.

We find firmament used again in Psalms: “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork” (Psalm 19:1). Also, in Psalm 150:1, “Praise ye the LORD.… Praise him in the firmament of his power.”

Firmament is used in only two other books of the Bible: Ezekiel (five times) and Daniel (once). In Ezekiel, each occurrence takes place within a vision. For example, “Then I looked, and, behold, in the firmament that was above the head of the cherubims there appeared over them as it were a sapphire stone, as the appearance of the likeness of a throne” (Ezekiel 10:1).

Daniel 12:3 says, “And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.”

In short, the “firmament” is a vast expanse, specifically the atmosphere or sky. The word is found only in the King James Version and other older translations of the Bible.[1]

 

[1] Got Questions Ministries. (2010). Got Questions? Bible Questions Answered. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Christians: the world’s most persecuted people

WINTERY KNIGHT

Dina tweeted this article from the leftist UK Independent.

Excerpt:

Most people in the West would be surprised by the answer to the question: who are the most persecuted people in the world? According to the International Society for Human Rights, a secular group with members in 38 states worldwide, 80 per cent of all acts of religious discrimination in the world today are directed at Christians.

The Centre for the Study of Global Christianity in the United States estimates that 100,000 Christians now die every year, targeted because of their faith – that is 11 every hour. The Pew Research Center says that hostility to religion reached a new high in 2012, when Christians faced some form of discrimination in 139 countries, almost three-quarters of the world’s nations.

All this seems counter-intuitive here in the West where the history of Christianity has been one of cultural dominance and…

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“Gaza public rejects Hamas, wants ceasefire,” finds credible new poll. Details & analysis.

Joel C. Rosenberg's Blog

Source: Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Source: Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

(Denver, Colorado) — The most recent credible polling of Palestinians in Gaza reveals sinking support for Hamas, rising support for the Palestinian Authority to run Gaza instead of Hamas, and an overwhelming desire for a ceasefire, reports the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

  • 88% want the Palestinian Authority (PA) — not Hamas — to run Gaza administratively
  • 70% want a ceasefire
  • 57% want Hamas to renounce violence against Israel
  • 56% would like to work in Israel if calm was restored and they could find a better-paying job than in Gaza

To be sure, the poll finds that a large number of Palestinians in Gaza do support Hamas and violence. Support for a two-state solution has dropped significantly.

Also, this is only a snapshot in time. We will need to see more polling results in the days and weeks ahead to understand…

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“Son of Hamas” speaks out against the radical Islamic terror group of which he was once a top operative. Calls Hamas a “cancer” that “worships death.” Video of CNN interview. Audio of radio interview.

Joel C. Rosenberg's Blog

Mosab Hassan Yousef, interviewed on July 24th on CNN. Mosab Hassan Yousef, interviewed on July 24th on CNN.

UPDATED: Mosab Hassan Yousef is the eldest son of one of the founders of Hamas, Sheik Hassan Yousef, the spiritual leader of the organization on the West Bank.

As a youth, Mosab was arrested by the Israelis for involvement in terrorism.

In prison, he came to realize the true evil of Hamas.

In time, he renounced Islam, chose to become a follower of Jesus, and became a double agent for the Israeli secret services (Shin Bet) working to thwart Hamas terror attacks.

Later, he emigrated to the United States where he wrote a best-selling book, “Son of Hamas,” warning about the dangerous of Hamas and telling his own journey out of Radical Islam.

Now, with Hamas engaged in a brutal, deadly war with Israel, Mosab — a remarkably courageous young man — is again speaking out against the radical Islamic terror group of which he used to…

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The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it, you have founded them

Possessing the Treasure

by Mike Ratliff

11 The heavens are yours; the earth also is yours; the world and all that is in it, you have founded them.  (Psalm 89:11 ESV)

God worked out the circumstances in my walk so that right after I repented and turned from my self-focused religiosity to walking before Him as one bearing his own cross I was drawn into this discernment ministry. Through this I became aware of the decades of apostasy that the visible church was in and how so much of what we call “church” in our time is not. The move away from God-focused Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy in the Church to what we see in the majority of the visible church today into man-centeredness was accomplished mostly in small, behind-the-scenes moves. Why? It is always done this way by Satan’s change agents because what is being done can only be accomplished via deception. If…

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