You wrote: (i.e., we have no basis whatsoever for complaint against God, something Job would have done well to remember: Job 9:33)
Could you please clarify Job 9:30:
There is no umpire between us, who may lay his hand upon us both.
Job is framing his dilemma in human legal terms. If God were visible, if God could be approached the way a human "adversary" could be approached, then Job is confident that a good counselor (or arbitrator) would reconcile the two one to another, since Job is well aware that the trouble he is suffering is "not his fault". What he is forgetting is that God knows everything and that everything which happens happens for a purpose with God working everything out for the good for those who love Him (Rom.8:28). This is the stuff of deep spiritual maturity, but even for one of the best believers who ever lived, namely Job, we see how difficult it sometimes can be to maintain that correct, heavenly perspective when we find ourselves under intensive suffering in this world. Blessedly, we have the book of Job; Job went through this for us to an extreme degree so that we can (and should) "go to school" on his example. He had the excuse of not having the book of Job, but we do not.
Here are some pertinent links:
Interpreting the Book of Job
Date of the Book of Job
You wrote: This new ritual of communion therefore proclaims in a brilliantly simple way the essence of the difference between the two covenants. For while both the old and the new are essentially promises from God made to all who would seek Him, the old made use of shadows which looked forward to a future reality whose exact details of fulfillment were not entirely yet made clear (1Pet.1:10-12; cf. Job 17:3).
Could you please explain the inclusion and meaning of Job 17:3?
Now put down a pledge for me with Yourself. Who is he who will shake hands with me?
Job is trusting in God to provide him with the means of deliverance from a debt he does not have the wherewithal to pay so he understood as well as anyone without witnessing our Lord's first advent and His death on the cross might be able to do the substitutionary nature of Jesus' sacrifice in dying for our sins. That is the "pledge" Job puts his hope in, the " sacrifice of atonement" for "the sins committed beforehand unpunished" as Paul puts it at Romans 3:25.
My sons pastor was telling about the way the Bible was written from the start. And he said that Job is the earliest book. Where can I get a list of the first written order of books? I have never heard this before and I'm 75 years old and never missed church - I know this is not that important in the work of things but can you tell me how they decided on where they would place the books back then?
May God Bless
Good to make your acquaintance.
I have heard this theory before, but do not believe it is correct. The idea is that because the book of Job references the Sabeans and Chaldeans (along with some Hebrew vocabulary items taken to be early by some scholars), that Job must have lived before the Exodus. Even if that were true, however, that does not mean that Job wrote the book during his lifetime. After all, the fact that the book of Genesis tells us about Abraham does not mean that it dates to Abraham's day. In fact, Moses wrote Genesis some five centuries or so after Abraham (informed of those events by the Spirit under divine inspiration). So even if Job did live well before Moses, that does not mean the book itself was not written until much later (which is most probably the case).
In fact, no one knows when the book of Job was written (there is no evidence one way or another besides what is contained in the text, and that is not decisive). In my opinion (shared by most conservative Bible scholars), the book was probably put down on paper by Solomon (a prophet of God who wrote Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Proverbs, et al., also inspired by the Spirit, and compiled the first two books of the Psalms). If so, then Job would not be the oldest Bible book. The Pentateuch (i.e., the first five books of the Old Testament) would comprise the oldest books, written by Moses in the 14th cent. B.C. (that is certainly my view after considering carefully all of the evidence); Joshua and Judges are older than Job as well. Job most likely belongs to the series of books produced during King Solomon's reign. Here are a couple of links which talk about more these matters including the book of Job:
Chronological order of the books of the Bible.
Comments on the Chronological order of Bible books
Interpreting the Book of Job
Do feel free to write me back about any of the above.
Yours in Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior,
Hey Dr. Luginbill,
A passage in Job caught my eye a few days ago. I've been wondering about it ever since. It was during the part when his friends were talking to him. I thought there were three friends. There was a fourth person, Elihu talking though. Who was he? I don't know why I never noticed that passage before. Anyway, it stuck out to me. He sounded more "right" than the other friends, in my opinion. What do you think? He is the last person to speak, before God answers Job. Is there any significance to this? Also, he wasn't named at the end as someone God was displeased with. Job prayed for the other three though. Was he not significant enough to mention, or was God not in disagreement with him? One last thing, how do we know what advice is good and what is bad in the book of Job?
I think most of what is said in the book of Job is theologically true it's just that much of this truth is misapplied because Job's friends are misjudging his situation (and even Job is misjudging his own situation because he does not understand God's motivation and fails to give Him the proper benefit of the doubt). For example, Paul quotes Eliphaz (Job 5:13 quoted at 1Cor.3:19), even though Eliphaz is mis-applying the truth about "catching the wise in their own craftiness" to Job.
Yes, Elihu, the youngest, and "along for the ride" (or so it seems), gets the best "start" of all of "Job's comforters", but he ends up making the same mistake they all make: all four assume that these things would not be happening to Job if he were not sinning somehow. But in fact they were dead wrong. This is a very important lesson for Christians in the age of the Church to understand, inasmuch as we are being targeted by the devil as never before. That is because we represent Christ as members of His Body, are filled with His Spirit, and are privy to the knowledge of Jesus, His Person and His work. So we do "share the sufferings of Christ" in a way only occasionally true of Old Testament believers. The upshot is that the "Job scenario" is often true for believers today, and as a result it ill behooves any Christian to assume that if another Christian is suffering or being persecuted or experiencing some terrible reverse or becomes desperately ill that said person is necessarily "sinning" (we need to be careful about wrongly evaluating ourselves in this regard as well!).
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.
1st Peter 4:12-13 NASB
Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world.
1st Peter 5:8b-9 NASB
It wasn't true of Job that he was suffering for punishment or discipline, and it often isn't true of believers who are being attacked by the evil one today. Job's mistake was in reacting to these false accusations of his erstwhile friends in a way that let down his emotional restraint and ended up in him blaming God which shows that he did not have a perfect understanding of the principle of suffering for the Lord either.
Of course, it is easier to pass this test academically than experientially (especially if anyone were to experience the horrors Job underwent)! Blessedly, we do have the book of Job to help us now. Job "justified himself" (which was tantamount to blaming God), but he was in fact only being harmed because he was a righteous man who loved the Lord and did what was right and hence became a target. Rightly understood, however, God allowed this to happen (as we see in chapters 1-2), so that this was the highest compliment the Lord could pay a believer still on earth. I am sure that it did not feel like a compliment, however, and although Job held his own under this extraordinary testing better than any other believer is recorded to have done, he was undone by his "friends". Everything they said was correct except that most of it did not in truth apply to Job and his situation and the reasons for it. That was their mistake, and Elihu, though he correctly diagnoses that Job is wrong to have blamed God, yet he still wrongly assumes as his three elders did that the reason for the trouble in the first place was Job's "sinning". So we can learn a lot from the book of Job, even from the misapplied truths of his poor comforters.
Keep up the good work and keep running the good race for Jesus Christ.
In our Lord,
Today, my Hebrew professor, who is a Jewish atheist, brought up the presumed injustice of God against Job over 'a bet with Satan.' However, I do not think that this is the correct way to read Job. In the case of Job, Satan worked to remove everything beautiful in Job's life, so that he may accuse God of not being inherently good. However, only God has the power to know the hearts of men, and Satan could not discern what was in Job's heart. Even before it happened, Job had faith in the ultimate act of love from God when he sacrificed his only begotten son. Satan could not know this, for he cannot know the hearts of men, and therefore he truly believed that if he were to remove all that was good in Job's life, Job would be forced to curse God. But God did know what Job put his faith in. This is to say, from Satan's perspective, he had every reason to believe that Job should lose faith in God, if the natural revelation of God's character is the reason why people come to God. However, the reason why people stay with God is because of faith in Christ.
Yes indeed. As I often say, the Lord was paying Job the highest possible compliment. Little did Job know when he said "Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever!" (Job 19:23-24 NIV), that he would get his wish, literally! And that we who read these blessed words would be helped by them immeasurably . . . that is if we take them to heart and remember that God has a plan for us that includes absolutely everything that happens. Even when things seems a disaster to us, He is working all things out together for good (Rom.8:28).
Unbelievers are incapable of understanding such things, and feel the need to denigrate God and the Bible at every opportunity in order to justify their arrogant refusal to submit to His will by accepting the Gift of Jesus Christ.
Yours in our dear Savior,
Do you really believe that Job faltered near the end after the excessive accusations of his friends? His response at the sight of God is consistent with his earlier statement, 'And unto man he said, Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.' (Job 28:28).
I think there's no question about it:
When Job was finished, the Lord said of Job to Job:
"Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?"
Job 38:2 NKJV
And when the Lord was finished, Job replied:
"Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know."
Job 42:3 NKJV
By "falter", then, I would clarify that Job lost his temper when talking about God something Moses later found out is not of no consequence. That doesn't mean that Job wasn't one of the greatest believers who ever lived (he was) or that we would have done better (we wouldn't have gotten nearly so far in the test). It does mean that since we have now "read the test" ahead of time, we ought to do better when we are tested than if such testing were to come to us as a complete surprise especially since our test(s) are almost certainly going to be less severe than Job's.
In our dear Lord Jesus Christ,
Your site is very productive and helpful to me. After reading some of your FAQs and links which I'm still doing I just discovered that you have treated almost if not every line in the Bible with careful and God-fearing exegetical scholastic wisdom. Sorry, I'm curious about your age because we need someone like you in the Christian community but your CV gives me a blunt hope that you'll be around too much longer).
A couple of questions though:
1) After Job's testing, in the presence of his three friends who came to counsel him, he spoke much about his God-fearing life and deeds to his contemporary for which he is rebuked by Elihu and God as self-righteous (Job 32-42). As Christians, can we by any means use his faithful statements to admonish our Christian faith or we can fall in the same trap of self-righteousness promotion (job 3-31)?
2) According to Job 26:7 and Isaiah 40:22 it seems the earth hangs free in the Universe with its ponds/oceans on its surface; this causes me not to clearly understand the verses which say "water under the earth or earth spread on the water". Which 'under' and why since it seems we are enclosed around in the universe?
Yours In Jesus whose coming we all await. Zambia
Good to hear from you again, and thanks for your kind and encouraging words. As to your questions:
1) The book of Job is not easy to interpret. Most of what Job and his friends say is true. However, it is how they apply their words to Job and his particular situation that is often in error. For example, it is fine to say that the righteous are blessed and the wicked cursed (as a general principle and certainly in the end), but it is not correct to conclude that anyone who is prospering is righteous and anyone who is under pressure is therefore wicked. Certainly, Job's self-justification was wrong, as the Lord makes clear (I would not want to rely on Elihu for this). And there are other statements (by all parties) with which we might want to disagree with that is at least in the context in which they are made and how they are applied. So I would not want to put a blanket interpretation upon anything any of the human speakers has to say; I would want to consider every verse and sentiment on its individual merits.
As to how we should behave, applying the truths of the Word of God to our own circumstances in what we say is always a tricky business if ever we are trying to explain our own actions or our own circumstances to others. The best policy is often to be aggressive about defending our faith as well as any and all truths of scripture, but to let our actions speak for themselves when it comes to anything else of a spiritual nature having to do with "where we are" and "how we are doing", spiritually speaking. If we are being attacked by the evil one, the Lord is quite capable of defending us, both physically and in terms of our reputation if only we are willing to patiently wait for those deliverances. Needless to say, this is easier said than done:
I said, "I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth while in the presence of the wicked." So I remained utterly silent, not even saying anything good. But my anguish increased; my heart grew hot within me. While I meditated, the fire burned; then I spoke with my tongue.
Psalm 31:1-3 NIV
2) The descriptions of the world, the universe, the heavens, the underworld, and the waters (above and below) as they occur in Job are poetic (Job is written almost entirely in poetry), but they are all consistent with the "heavenly and biblical geography" of the Bible. Here are some links which spell out what that is:
Diagram of the heavens, the earth, and the lower regions
The Waters above the Firmament
The Geography of Heaven, Hades and 'Hell'
The waters above
The heavenly sea (in CT 2B)
Job and ex nihilo creation (in Genesis Gap: Questions and Answers III)
In Jesus our Lord,
Dear Dr. Luginbill,
What a sweet and unexpected blessing of the Lord to stumble across your website. I am marking it as a "favorite" and plan to spend a lot of time reading your comments and insights. I understand that there is controversy over the date of the writing of Job and am wondering why you chose such a late date.
Thank you for your faithfulness to The Word.
Good to make your acquaintance, and thanks much for your kind words.
As to your question, just as prophets often predict the distant future, it is also a standard thing in the Old Testament for prophets to be inspired by God to write down the words and deeds of others, often having occurred long before their own time. Moses, for example, lived thousands of years after Adam and Eve, but was given to record all of pre-history before his own day (the biblical account, that is; we find a similar phenomenon in the historical books). Similarly, Solomon, a prophet of God, was given to record many wonderful things through the ministry and inspiration of the Spirit, collecting and augmenting his father David's collection of Psalms, for example, and also, the evidence seems to show, the story of Job. The fact that Solomon was not there when these conversations took place (so that the date of the writing of the book itself is later than that of Job) was no impediment to the Holy Spirit. All of the Bible was given to be written by prophets of Israel (including the New Testament), so if Job were to have been written contemporaneously, it would be a large exception to that rule. And, of course, the book is in Hebrew. The book does not identify Solomon as the (human) author, but this is the traditional, (biblically) conservative position, and a hypothesis of which, after some consideration over a good deal of time, I thoroughly approve. Solomon was the one responsible for collecting, editing and penning all the other wisdom books (i.e., Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon); for that reason too it make sense to include the book of Job in his portion of scripture.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
I have a question about Job 15:25: "For they shake their fists at God defying the Almighty". Some say that in Eliphazs second response to Job he wasn't accurate in what he was saying for the simple fact that God was angry with Job three friends. But we can see in Job 32: 3 (Elihu), that He was also angry with Jobs three friends, for they made God appear to be wrong by their inability to answer Jobs arguments. and verse 11-15 . What I like to know is do you have more of an explanation about man raising their fist towards God out of anger and why they would do that? A friend told me the other day nowhere in the scriptures does it say man raises the fist or hand against God in anger but I knew about this one. Thank you for your help. God Bless.
The NLT and NIV have "shake the fist" at Job 15:25, but a bit more literally from the Hebrew is "raises/stretches his hand against God". The idea in all these cases, however, is the same, namely, of a defiant gesture directed towards the Lord.
Two things. First, the book of Job is filled with truth. There is very little that Job's friends (or Job himself) have to say that is not true in some circumstances. The problem for Job's friends is that they are wrongly applying general truths to Job's particular situation. If I say "God judges sinners", well, that is true enough; but if I go on to say "since you have the flu you are a sinner being judged by God", that is likely to be wrong on several levels, both because we are all sinners (though we don't all have the flu), and also because the fact of you having the flu may have nothing whatsoever to do with divine discipline.
Job was not being disciplined for sin, as we who have read the first two chapters of the book know very well, but that was the incorrect view of his friends, and explains why all of the things they said which were true in principle were wrong when applied to Job himself. The problem for Job was similar but distinctly different enough to warrant comment. Although Job was being tested and not being judged by God for any sin, he did not pass the test perfectly. He did bear up under severe loss and severe physical distress (better than anyone before or since is recorded to have done, save our Lord Himself), but when it came to the cold comfort of his questionable friends he stopped giving the Lord the benefit of the doubt. Since he had in fact not sinned or done anything to warrant the horrific suffering that had come his way, when accused of that very thing by his "friends" he began to find fault with the Lord, failing to realize that there might just be something else going on above his ability to know or comprehend.
Admittedly, that is a very high standard and few of us would have done anywhere near as well as Job in holding out as long as he did. However, the fact that he faltered just before the finish line is something we all ought to take to heart when we are feeling weary in any test. Job's failure stands in marked contrast to Abraham's success: being told to sacrifice his own dear son, the very one who was supposed to fulfill God's promise to him, would seem to contradict and make impossible everything God had promised to him; but Abraham drew the correct conclusions of perfect faith: "I may not understand this at all, but I do trust the Lord to work it out come what may" (cf. Heb.11:17-19).
Secondly, it is not at all uncommon for unbelievers to "shake their fists" at God. In fact, it is very common. Once a person has rejected the God who made the world as all can see (Rom.1:18-32), defying Him is a very natural result down the road. In the progression of the three satanic lies, first a person decides he/she doesn't need God; second they elevate themselves to being on an equal basis with God; thirdly they seek to replace God (sometimes cast as "helping God"), whether in their own minds or in trying to gain or alter the world, and that always involves rebellion against divine prerogatives parallel to what the devil has been doing all along. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom" (Ps.111:10), but the arrogant who have rejected wanting to have anything to do with Him often progress in the way described, becoming equals with Him in their sinful hearts and finally defiantly rebelling against His authority in all manner of ways.
This demonstrates the perfect nature of the Plan of God. Everyone of us is here in the world to decide our own eternal future. In His matchless grace, God has made eternal life available to all since Christ has died for all; but most are not interested in ceding any of their freedom to the Lord (even though eternal life is to be had by simply accepting God's Gift), and the arrogance of heart that leads to the threefold progression described above and which results in "shaking the fist" at the One who made them and died to save them, is indicative of the fact that the ultimate choice of perdition comes from the heart of those who are lost, not from any sort of circumstantial conditions (much more on all this in BB 4B: Soteriology). In other words, the only people who go to hell are those who choose to do so.
Yours in our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Hey Dr. Luginbill,
Thanks for the reply. I have another question for you. In Job 19:25, when Job says that his redeemer lives, what is he referring too? I assumed he was referring to Jesus Christ, and the idea that there will be life after death. I was reading an intro to OT textbook, and it said that it was not referring to Jesus Christ/trinity/life after death at all. If I remember correctly, the book said this was referring to someone who handled one's legal business after death. It said that what he meant was that person would clear his name after he died. What do you think? The book attempted to explain away a number of miracles in the OT. There was also a big emphasis on the different "sources." I didn't really understand it though.
You're very welcome.
As to your latest question, you are exactly correct. The Redeemer here is Jesus Christ, and Job by these comments is stating not only that he is confident of a bodily resurrection, but also that he knows that it is based upon faith in God providing the One who makes it possible showing that even in the Old Testament salvation has always been the same, except that now the Redeemer has been revealed in person.
Jesus Christ is present throughout the Old Testament, although we do find what I call a "prophetic foreshortening" which blurs the distinction between Him and the Father (as well as the Spirit; see the link: Christophany). What I mean by this is that in the Old Testament, for a variety of reasons, the Trinity, while present, was obscured by being blended together before the cross, in an analogous way to that in which the distinction between the first and second advents was obscured by their being blended together before the cross. After the fact, that is, after the incarnation and revelation of Jesus Christ in His first advent, His completion of redemption at the cross (He is the only Redeemer), His resurrection, ascension and session, many of these things which were not understood in the past the mystery of Christ and of the gospel have now been made crystal clear:
Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of the Messiah and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.
1st Peter 1:10-12 NIV
The handbook you are reading has clearly been written by someone with a very low view of inspiration (if the person is even a believer), and is therefore essentially useless, at least in terms of being able to provide any help for Christian spiritual growth. Unless a person believes that scripture is true, there is no possibility of progressing.
Here are a couple of links which will fill in the gaps in the above discussion:
Prophetic foreshortening (in CT 1)
The Trinity in the Old Testament (in BB 1)
Redemption (in BB 4A)
The Mystery of Christ
Yours in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer,
Dear Dr. Luginbill,
Thank you very much for your thoughtful and complete answer to my prior question. Again, the time and energy you spend on this site is greatly appreciated.
In my recent re-reading of Job, the first two chapters clearly indicate that Satan was the cause of Job's afflictions. However, Job 42:11 states it was "the trouble the Lord had brought upon him." This resembles the apparent contradiction existing in the text when David counted his men. Specifically, 2 Samuel 24:1 states that The Lord "incited David". Conversely, 1 Chronicles 21:1 states that "Satan rose up against Israel and incited David to take a census of Israel." I fully believe that the bible is the inerrant word of God. I am, however, curious as to the scriptures cited here and their meaning. From an apologetics standpoint, it is passages such as these that skeptics and critics of the bible grasp onto as reasons NOT to believe. Do you have any thoughts or insight as to the scriptures cited here and their apparent conflict with each other? Thank you again for your time.
Good to hear from you again. Let me say first that apologetics is neither my ministry nor my "strong suit". In my opinion, those who are not willing to believe scripture are just looking for excuses to live life the way they want to apart from God. It is important that they be confronted, and some are gifted to engage in that sort of confrontation. That is not my area of expertise, partly because I have no patience with those who are only pretending. In my view, no one has been lost because they read a scripture which confused them. All those who truly search truly find.
As to the substance of your question, in addition to the very fine parallel you adduce, there are a good many other instances recorded in scripture where the Lord is shown to make use of the actions and activities of the evil one and his minions for God's own good purposes (see the link: "God's employment of evil spirits"). Indeed, everything that happens in this life has been "plugged into" the Plan of God since before He initiated creation (see the link: "God's Plan to Save You"); every action that has ever occurred and every decision of every moral agent has always only worked for the glory of God and for the accomplishment of the whole, so that the very "wrath of man" praises Him (Ps.76:10). So, yes, we can see from the beginning of the book that but for our Lord's allowing it, none of theses terrible things would have befallen Job. But that does not mean that 1) God did not have his best interest at heart in all these matters, or that 2) God did not work all things out together for good in this case. Indeed He did. So this verse describes the situation from our limited human point of view. From that point of view, Job certainly did have "trouble", and which of us could have navigated it as well as he did? But of course in allowing this trouble to come Job's way, the Lord has taught us all so very much.
This book and its message are among the most important in scripture to consider for all those undergoing testing and trials. And in addition to being vindicated and restored, Job has been memorialized with an entire book of the Bible using him as the example to which every child of God should respond when trouble comes. That is high praise indeed. This life is all about spiritual warfare, and Job is one of the greatest heroes in that conflict and will no doubt be among the most highly decorated in eternity as a result.
Here are some links on that:
The Battlefield Within: Fighting the inner spiritual Struggle.
Spiritual Warfare III: Peter's 'Angel', Saul's Death, and Strange Events
Spiritual Warfare II
Finally, as to conflicts, anyone who spends a lot of time in scripture will have, at least in the short run, more rather than less questions. God satisfies this thirst for truth for all who stick with it. It is in the hope of helping in that process that this ministry was founded and continues. So I do hope the above is of some use to you.
Here are a few links about the other "problem passage" you mention:
David's Disastrous Census of Israel
Satan's incitement of David
2nd Samuel 24:1
Please do feel free to write back about any of the above.
In our dear, faithful Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord,
An awesome answer per usual, thank you, sir.
Something tells me by the tone/tenor of your reply that you can tell I'm in a sort of hell right now. I'm basically on fire all the time. It really hurts. I caught what seems to be whooping cough recently, not to mention the worst allergy attack of my life (ironic considering baby is almost here), which were probably punishments/corrections.
Is it always a matter of having our sin rubbed in our faces? That's what it feels like: More satanically empowered "opportunity" for sin all while knowing a) how evil I am for even being tempted by it and b) knowing exactly what to do and when to do it and STILL being in pain all the while.
Doing "the right thing" hurts more and more. Is this normal? I really hope my new baby eases some of this. I still have no employment, either.
The devils just don't back off lately.
Sorry to hear that you are having health problems on top of everything else. That has been my story this summer as well. It is important to remember that just because something adverse happens to us does not mean that we are being disciplined for sin. If we keep "short accounts" with the Lord, that is, confessing our sins when we commit them and being good about turning resolutely away from our mistakes, then the discipline will be more bearable and will also come and go. If we have already been disciplined for something that happened in the distant past, then additional "trouble" which surfaces later is probably not discipline at all (please see the link: in BB 3B: "Principles of Divine Discipline"). When Job complained to God, "For you write down bitter things against me and make me reap the sins of my youth" (Job 13:26), Job was wrong: his suffering had nothing to do with divine discipline far from it. We do suffer from divine discipline for sins (although if we have confessed the suffering is bearable and for blessing), but we also suffer for testing and growth; and suffering, after all, is part of the human condition. So a good approach to all trouble is to trust in the Lord's deliverance and to be grateful for the grace He gives which always brings us through the suffering, trial, trouble, test:
You have not suffered any testing beyond normal human [experience]. And God is faithful. He will not allow you to be tested beyond your capacity, but, along with the test, He will grant you the way out, so that you can bear up under it.
1st Corinthians 10:13
I will be keeping you in my prayers for deliverance.
In our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
I am including a picture of some Siamese twins. Their suffering in the struggle to live is seemingly much greater than anyone could endure. How does Bible explain this?
Good to hear from you again. Your question is a variation of one people ask all the time. "Why, God?!" (or even more often, "Why me God?!"). This is an interesting variant (and apologies if these are family or close friends). Generally speaking, people are prompted to ask this question when a tragedy occurs (such as the death of a child or some other horrific misfortune). In the history of the world there have been innumerable events, tragedies, and catastrophes of all manner of shapes and sizes that have befallen people suddenly or gradually, lasting long or short periods of time, having temporary or permanent consequences that is a part of the human condition:
Moreover, no one knows when their hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so people are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.
Ecclesiastes 9:12 NIV
I think it is also safe to say that it is the very rare human being who has never experienced anything untoward of the degree that at least that person would not consider it to be a personal tragedy or, biblically put, "personal tribulation". The Peter series (see the link), was written to help explain this very phenomenon inasmuch as the epistles of Peter are very much concerned with "undeserved suffering" (see the link).
While the world bemoans tragedies especially if they hit close to home believers know (or should) that God is working all things out together for good . . . for those who love Him (Rom.8:28). Therefore when it comes to horrible things that happen in the world and I hear something like "how could a loving God let XYZ happen", I always wish to make the distinction first between believers and unbelievers. When it comes to unbelievers, let us stipulate that even if a person who had not accepted Christ as his/her Savior lived for 1,000 years and enjoyed untold prosperity and never ever had anything unpleasant drop into his/her life, that person would nevertheless have wasted this life and would be in for an eternity in the lake of fire where the worst possible suffering of this short time on earth will seem as nothing by comparison (cf. Eccl.6:3-6). Believers understand that God has it "all figured out"; we understand that everything has been anticipated by Him and entered into His decree and perfectly so in order for all those who would be saved to be saved, and for all who are saved to produce the maximum result for Christ in order to earn the maximum reward. That is human history and human life in its essence. This short time is all about decision-making with eternal ramifications (please see the link: in BB 4B: "God's Plan to Save You").
Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.
Ephesians 5:15-16 ESV
(24) Don't you know that all the runners in the stadium run the race, but that only one receives the prize? Run in such a way so as to achieve what you are after. (25) And again, everyone involved in competition exercises self-control in all respects. Those athletes go through such things so that they may receive a perishable crown of victory, but we do it to receive an imperishable one. (26) So as I run this race of ours, I'm heading straight for the finish line; and as I box this bout of ours, I'm making every punch count. (27) I'm "pummeling my body", one might say, bringing myself under strict control so that, after having preached [the gospel] to others, I might not myself be disqualified [from receiving the prize we all seek].
1st Corinthians 9:25-27
So what if it is the case (and it is the case) that the tragedy you are witnessing or any tragedy really has been anticipated by God, and perfectly so? What if it was only by means of this tragedy (or in combination with other events) that the person or persons in question would ever be saved? Or what if, even if they would never be willing to be saved, others who view their plight are led to contemplate the vanity of this world and the need for an eternal solution . . . so that they come to be saved as a result? What if believers viewing this or that tragedy, not to mention experiencing this or that tragedy, are tested and refined in their faith to prove it genuine (or not), to learn to trust God more completely regardless of what they see with their eyes, hear with their ears or feel with their feelings? What if the experiences of those who suffer is a necessary part of God's plan in every respect? God, after all, could allow everyone to live for ever in sin and yet without any pain or trouble whatsoever. Is that the eternal state we want? Do we not rather yearn for a new earth under new heavens "where righteousness dwells" (2Pet.3:13), and perfect eternal bodies never again capable of pain, trouble or sin? That is our blessed hope (Tit.2:13).
Christ will return. The Millennium will arrive. God's kingdom will come. When it does, all will be perfect for us who trusted Him, while all who would not have any truck with God's perfection will be cast into outer darkness. Until that time, we live in a world run by the devil, populated by sinful people, infested by all manner of lust and idolatry and godlessness. In such a circumstance, suffering, trouble and tragedy are right at home. We could blame God for this, but that would be a terrible mistake (even if it is a very common one). God is using the imperfection, sin and rebellion of His wayward creatures to call out for Himself a people who want something better a people who understand that there will never be heaven on earth without the One who provides it, namely God Himself in the Person of His Son our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
His disciples asked him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?" "Neither this man nor his parents sinned," said Jesus, "but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him."
John 9:2-3 NIV
A more righteous man in the natural order of things never lived than Job. God allowed Job to be tested by the devil to a degree that very few believers in the history of the world could have endured without losing faith and blaming God for their troubles and sufferings. And Job withstood every test until his sorry friends, assuming some "secret sins", blamed him for his troubles and "got his goat". Just before God appeared to reprove him for his momentary lapse, to Job it seemed as if there were no justice, no hope, no end of trouble. In fact, God does everything in absolute righteousness, is working everything out for our absolute good, and has set the finish line for us personally and the human race collectively in precisely the perfect place and He did deliver Job in every way, with the end being better than the beginning in ways that Job never could have guessed.
The difference between despair and glory boils down to one thing: faith. We have to trust God that He is right here right now taking care of things for us in just the perfect way. We have to accept this truth and it is absolutely true even if we are hurting, even if we are grieving, even if we are at our wits end, even if we are broke, starving, persecuted, and on the brink of expiring: even if we die, God can raise us from the dead. The Father who put His own Son to death for us, who judged every single one of our sins in Him so that we might not perish but have life eternal, is certainly not letting us down. He never lets anyone down (Heb.13:5). Just as He is working "all things" out for our good (Rom.8:28), He will also most certainly give us "all things" needful in this life (Rom.8:32). The question is, who is willing to trust Him when the going gets tough?
So what shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but handed Him over for our sake, how will He not also graciously give us everything [we need] along with [that gift of] Him? Who will [dare to] bring charges against God's elect? God is the One who is pronouncing [us] justified. Who is he that condemns [us]? Christ Jesus is the One who died [condemned in our place], and the One, moreover, who was raised from the dead [for us], who is [seated] at the right hand of God, who is also making petitions on our behalf. What will separate us from Christ's love? Tribulation? Or privation? Or persecution? Or hunger? Or destitution? Or danger? Or violence? As it is written, "For your sake we are being put to death all day long. We were accounted as sheep for slaughter". But in all such things we are decisively victorious through Him who loved us [enough to do what He did for us]. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, neither angelic nor human authorities, neither things present nor things to come, neither heavenly powers, be they the highest [of the elect] or the lowest [of the fallen], nor any other created thing [on this earth] will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Things are difficult for many people in this world for many reasons, especially believers, but however difficult they are for us now, it is nothing compared to what is about to happen very soon once the Tribulation begins. One proper perspective on this question would be, in my view, to take maximum advantage of every single hardship the Lord sends our way now, realizing that He is training us and preparing us in love for what promises to be a very difficult time in the very near future (as the Coming Tribulation series attempts to explain; see the link).
And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"
Luke 18:7-8 NIV
Have no fear of what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison to test you, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Demonstrate faithfulness unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.
Yours in the dear Lord who bought us through His own blood, our Savior Jesus Christ.
Dear Dr. Robert,
Thank you for your prompt, descriptive and lengthy reply. I being a Christian was and am thinking in the same lines. But seeing and encountering situation like this "why" is an obvious question come to mind. But we Christians should live in "word" that has the answer to all. Anyway your reply soothes and recalled the scriptures.
You're very welcome.
In our dear Lord Jesus,
Good evening Dr. and I hope this email find you and your family well.
I am still diligently studying your CT series and still on CT 6 the section on rewards, particularly Level 3 rewards. I have two questions:
1. You mentioned, "we must pass through trials and tribulations beyond the common sort." How does this mesh with 1 Cor. 10:13 where our Lord through apostle Paul states "You have not suffered any testing beyond normal human experience"? It is my understanding that all trials are common but their duration or intensity might differ.
Am I right to believe it is a rarity for one to suffer as Job in this era and most trials, even if they are a result of consequences of sin, are not uncommon. The only uncommon on a large scale is actual martyrdom but that is common in certain parts of the world, albeit not in Western culture.
2. I know you probably have covered this in your Peter series and I will tackle that after the Satanic rebellion. It is taking me at least 4 months to finish your CT series because I am taking my time studying it in-depth. But if someone's trials are because of sinful consequences, for instance, someone who committed an illegal act, went to prison and currently suffers any repercussions of those sinful acts, how can that constitute a Level 3 reward if they maintain their faith and grew spiritually through those hardships?
Their hardship was due to their sinful choices not because of refining by God. Would I be correct to assume that Level 3 rewards is actually merited to believers who are tested and persevered not because of any sinful actions, i.e. Job but because the Lord is refining them for his glory?
In cursory review of the life of the apostles and men of faith in the the Bible, their unwavering faith came from trials God brought into their lives to refine them and those trials were uncommon, hence their 1st position at Christ Bema seat which I agree wholeheartedly with you.
I really appreciate you taking your time and your answer to this question.
And may God in his ever loving grace through His Son Jesus continue to grow and give you strength in your ministry.
Good to hear from you as always. As to your questions:
1) There is a good deal of territory, so to speak, between "trials of the common sort" and the kind of exceptional testing that befalls mature believers who are ready for the next step. Certainly, not everyone is tested as, for example, Abraham was tested in the sacrifice of Isaac, but to exceptional believers come exceptional tests in order to demonstrate the exceptional nature of their faith. There are three gates to the New Jerusalem which are reserved for those who have passed "crown of life" type tests in this life, and that certainly implies a wide range of experiences between the lowest and the highest in this middle category. Martyrdom would seem to guarantee at least this level of crown true martyrdom, that is. If giving one's life for Jesus Christ and His Church takes place in the service of ministry, then it would seem that the crown of glory, the highest crown corresponding to the first three gates, is appropriate. Revelation 2:10 does contemplate martyrdom but can also represent faithfulness, that is, passing tests, to the end of one's life without necessarily including martyrdom. 1st Corinthians 10:13 means just what it says, namely, God's protection of us from and through testing and trials which absolutely cannot be handled otherwise not being given a pass from severe testing that may only seem to be insurmountable. Indeed, if something seems easy, it's not much of a test; in order for a test to be extremely difficult, it almost has to seem virtually impossible to pass (which does not mean that it is impossible in fact).
2) There have been few if any human beings in the history of the world who have not suffered at least some trouble because of our own foolish, sinful, imprudent, reckless or slothful behavior. Clearly, the more serious the malfeasance, the more serious the temporal consequences. Everything we do in this life has repercussions, and when it comes to negative behavior and adverse repercussions it is clear that we should not be attributing the consequences to God. He is, of course, aware of all things, but if we break the speed limit by thirty miles an hour in order to get somewhere for an appointment, having started out too late, we can hardly blame Him if we get a speeding ticket. As I say, it is true that He is in control of all things, but part of the system of life God has set up for us allows everyone, believer and unbeliever alike, to consider and contemplate consequences for action and inaction; prudence avoids behavior that brings negative consequences, imprudence does not. Divine discipline for sin is another level of consequence that is given to believers in order to train us up in the way we should go, to help us to learn that it is better to do it God's way whatever the apparent consequences, and instill an appropriate fear of God that keeps us on the strait and narrow down the line. Bearing up under divine discipline (or under the consequences for some foolish action, for that matter), may be admirable on some level, but you are right that it is not at all the same thing as enduring genuine "undeserved suffering" which falls to the lot of the advancing mature believer (see the link). The latter is "sharing the sufferings of Christ (Rom.8:17; 2Cor.1:5; Phil.1:29-30; 3:10; Col.1:24; 1Pet.4:12-13; cf. Matt.10:38; 16:24; Mk.8:34; 10:21; 10:38-39; Lk.9:23; 14:27; Acts 5:41; 2Cor.4:10-11; Gal.6:17; 1Thes.1:6; 2Thes.1:4-5; 2Tim.3:12; see the link: in CT 2A: "sharing in the sufferings of Christ is a part of the normal Christian experience"); the former is mere reaping what we have sown:
For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God.
1st Peter 2:20 NKJV
This is all written up in part 3B of the Basics series: Hamartiology: the Biblical Study of Sin, section IV.3, "The Natural Consequences of Sin" (see the link); in the same study see also section II.5, "The Distinction between Sin and Crime".
Please feel free to write back about all of the above.
Thanks for all your good words!
In Jesus Christ our dear Lord and Savior.
What do you think of the relationship between the Instruction of Amenemope and Proverbs 22:12-24:34?
Nearly all Near Eastern "wisdom literature" shares certain characteristics (these works you mention are only two of many examples). The big difference between Proverbs and everything else is that Proverbs is inspired. So even if Solomon modeled this section from an Egyptian Vorlage (which I doubt), it is of no great consequence to believers unless they make the mistake of equating superficial similarity with substantive equivalence and as a result either invest the secular material work with too much importance or alternatively have their appreciation for the inspired Word of God degraded.
There is a rather large debate over the dating of "Instruction" and the theory of its priority to Proverbs is built entirely upon palaeographical grounds. I'm not an Egyptologist, but the evidence seems slim, and most people who want to argue for an early date have, as Egyptologists, obvious loyalties tending to inflate the importance of their own discipline (not to mention that most of them are secularists so that by definition they have an animus against the Bible). I've not seen a single citation which, even in translation, seems to me to bear anything more than superficial resemblance to Proverbs ("Instruction" contains many commonplaces, after all). If there is a relationship at all, besides as I say the fact that both works belonging to the same genre (we might include the book of Job here too), it could very well be that it is "Instruction" which is derivative rather than Proverbs. I would have to read the original of both in a proposed parallel before I was convinced of any true relationship. It is way too easy to spin respective English translations to make things appear closer than they actually are.
Yours in our dear Lord Jesus Christ,